The Statistician-General’s Explanation of the New Unemployment Figure


Unemployment in Nigeria has fallen from 28% to 6.4%!!! Sai Buhari! He promised to reduce unemployment and he’s done it even before he’s been sworn in! He divided unemployment by 4 – one for every year of his coming presidency. Saiiii! I’m kiddin! Obviously….

The unemployment figure has indeed been changed to 6.4% – not because the number of people unemployed changed, but because how we measure unemployment changed.

 

This might be confusing and controversial for some, so I figured I’d do a Bricklayer’s series on the issue.  Luckily, the rather super-cool Statistician General of the National Bureau of Statistics, Dr Yemi Kale, took his time to attempt explaining the statistical change in a rather impressive flurry of tweets. It’s rather long, but enjoyable, so enjoy…but if you find yourself giving up soon (lazy buggers), read this from Ventures Africa – it’ll help clarify some terminologies. Without further ado, here are Dr Kale’s words.

 

The bigger challenge we face whether we are emotional about it or not is that most Nigerians cannot afford to do absolutely nothing (unemployed). So after waiting for some time looking for good employment while doing nothing, to survive in the presence of no social security systems, they will start doing something of lower skill for a few hours a day to make ends meet (underemployment). This means technically they move from doing nothing (unemployed) to doing something for a few hours (underemployed), while they keep looking for full time employment. (Where skills and time deplored are fully in sync).

 

Why is full employment so high relative to underemployment and unemployment? First my dear brothers and sisters, you have to remove your emotional and sentimental views of purely technical definitions. Those of you fixated on quality of the job or how much it pays based on your own perception of quality – that is emotional, not scientific or technical. If we do this we will have millions of unemployment, underemployment and full employment rates tailored to individuals opinion. Let’s set out anger and frustration aside for a moment and all the wrongs we feel has been done to us since independence. Yes I know and I acknowledge them, but let’s stay scientific just for a moment so I can make you understand this. There is no propaganda. Drop the ‘they want to deceive us’ guard just for a few moments so we can reason together unemotionally.

 

We have a labor force of 72.5m not 170m. Please stop including my 5-year-old child or your 80-year-old grandmother as unemployed or in the labour force. That is ludicrous (and I don’t mean the rapper). Of the 72.5m only 9.7mn have post secondary education. The remaining 63.1mn of our labor force have from secondly school to never attended school. This point is very important when we try and understand why full employment is high relative to the other two. This means graduate unemployment cannot be more than the total 9.7m post-secondary school labor force assuming all post secondary school people don’t have jobs. So the maximum number of graduates out of jobs cannot be more than the maximum graduates in the labour force which is 9.7mn, so your argument of 80mn graduates is ludicrous (again not d rapper). What is 73.9mn of labour force? 13%. So if we assume all those from secondary school to never attended school all have jobs and all those post secondary don’t have any job for illustrative purposes. Then the max unemployment cannot be more than 11%. So again the only way you can have the 80% unemployment emotionally bandied around is if all graduates have no jobs and another 60% of the secondary school and below don’t have any jobs at all. That’s just silly (another way of saying ludicrous- not the rapper).

 

Now underemployment refers to doing something not in sync with your skills or qualifications or not doing something for an income not fully engaged or part time. I am sure that the taxi drivers, domestic help, all those people we see selling in markets all over d country which are always full to d brim – street vulcanizers, corner shop sellers, traders, farmers in their millions in rural areas, carpenters, plumbers we call to fix things in our houses, tailors we take our Aso Ebi to sew for our respective owambe, security guards, personal drivers, construction workers, and many others…going into millions and millions of Nigerians, you will agree mostly fall under the secondary school and below skills set. They also work more than full time if there’s anything like that. Since their skills match their jobs, which we call menial and they work full-time, then my dear bros and sisters, they are in full employment.

 

There are countless many that are graduates that do some of these jobs but unless your name is ludicrous and you want your name to stand for who you are like they say in Yoruba land, you won’t suggest they are more than the secondary school and below who make up 89% of our labour force. These graduates who have no decent jobs and are tired of doing nothing will now start doing these low-skilled jobs (I detest the word ‘menial’) to make ends meet for a few hours a day or so. We are not saying that they are gainfully employed or they are now ok or their jobs are satisfactory. We are not saying that this means we can now forget about them…No – we are saying that as unfortunate as they are to find themselves in that situation, they should correctly be termed underemployed because they are not doing jobs befitting of their skills and are not fully engaged. All we have done is disaggregate and remove those underemployed previously classified as unemployed. If you like add both back and get the higher figure. It will be 6.4% unemployed plus 17.9% underemployed to get 24.3% which is similar to the old figure you know and love.

 

 

If you managed to get this far, I’m impressed. I’m more impressed that Dr Kale managed to write this much of an article using Twitter. And because I don’t wish to make this longer, I’ll add only a bit to it. Judging from the new figures, underemployment might just be a bigger issue than unemployment in Nigeria. If there’s enough interest, I’ll write a follow up Bricklayer article on why underemployment is an underestimated, but ridiculously serious issue.

 

 


  • Modupe

    I like. Observation. The figure in this paragraph – “What is 73.9mn of labour force? 13%. So if we assume all those from secondary school to never attended school all have jobs and all those post secondary don’t have any job for illustrative purposes” should be 9.7m of labour force.

  • Modupe

    I also struggled with the figures in the next paragraph – “Then the max unemployment cannot be more than 11%. So again the only way you can have the 80% unemployment emotionally bandied around is if all graduates have no jobs and another 60% of the secondary school and below don’t have any jobs at all. That’s just silly (another way of saying ludicrous- not the rapper)”.

    Using his illustration max unemployment cannot be more than 13% right? Since graduates make up 9.7 of the labour force. (Or am I missing something here?). Going forward, the only way you can then have 80% unemployment is if all graduates have no jobs (13%) and 67% of secondary school and below don’t have any jobs at all.
    Even if one uses his 11% the figures won’t still match.
    If I’m not missing something then I don’t understand his calculations at all.

  • Tamuno-Opubo Cookey-Gam

    Is there a threshold salary from which employment is counted?

    If not, how does this rebasing affect our tax expectations? Again, from which threshold salary will taxation start?

    Furthermore, how mainstream is classifying unpaid interns as employed?

  • cryptex

    Well, at least it is an attempt at explaining the voodoo figures being churned out like samsung mobile phones. Take the myth of a growing middle class for example, and place it side-by-side “…per capita” figures, and you begin to take these statistics less seriously.

    It looks like he has taken the time to try disaggregating “employment”. Question is – What is the status of “fully employed” predicated on? Is there an actual metric for that (other than conjectures)? I say its conjectured because i cannot imagine that an economic metric for distinguishing full-employment from underemployment wouldn’t take into consideration the financial remuneration for work done.

    “They also work more than full time if there’s anything like that. Since their skills match their jobs, which we call menial and they work full-time, then my dear bros and sisters, they are in full employment.”

    So, if someone with secondary education earns 9,000 every month, are they counted as fully employed because they work 9am- 5pm or 24hrs?

    • lol. That’s not fair na. The NBS has gotten a lot better at data collection.

      He’s taken his time to disaggregate ‘unemployment’ into unemployment and underemployment. The benchmark for unemployment, underemployment and employment are predicated on the numbers of hours worked. Involving earnings introduces complications and education is not a requirement for employment, so to answer your question, yes, they’ll be counted as employed as long as they work past the mark set for employment.