Nigeria's unemployment figures remain same for years

BY Ini Ekott and Emmanuel Ogala
July 16, 2011 11:39AM

For several weeks now, hordes of Nigerians responding to job opening calls placed an intimidating number of applications on the websites of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC).

As of the first week of July, applications to 27 multi-discipline vacancies of the federal statistics office had topped a million, triggering a momentary system failure, according to some officials who spoke in Abuja.

The figure could not, however, be independently verified, but the two advertisements, spanning a mandatory six-week period, according to the officials speaking confidentially, have rekindled a troubling reality of an alarming employment crisis the nation has continued to face despite purported economic improvements.

"The NBS is hoping to take only about 300 but the number of applications has passed one million already," a research staff of the NBS told NEXT, with the recruitment window still to last to July 31.

"If you just announce an opening in this country, be prepared for a selection process that must definitely overwhelm you."

Yet, a government-approved figure of the unemployed, a crucial index that should help steer developmental plans, has placed the proportion of Nigerians without jobs at 19.7 percent - a controversial estimate that has been rejected by different labour groups and even government officials.

"The unemployment rate is 19.7 percent. Even though I have a different opinion, the NBS are the people with the constitutional mandate to give unemployment figure and that is what we are working with," Labour minister, Emeka Worgu, said during his confirmation for appointment at the senate a fortnight ago.

The former minister of Finance and now minister for Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, said the figure may be as much as 24.4 percent for 2010.

The Nigeria Labour Congress rejected the figure when it was first released in 2009, arguing that realities then, which still persist, should perk the figure at least 50 percent.

"Find out about the number of people who applied for the last recruitment by the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Customs Service," Issa Aremu, the NLC vice chairman said then.

"I think in the real sense, it should be about 50 percent. When more than a hundred thousand people apply for just about 3,000 vacancies, then you should know whether the figures are true," he added.

Ironically, two years on, and with same alarming outpouring of the unemployed for few job positions, the NBS-computed 19.7 percent, first obtained exclusively mid-2009 by NEXT, has remained officially the same, and is being proclaimed by the government as the latest unemployment data which charts federal planning and influences global perception.

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