Nigeria’s active labour force lost 20 million in two years – World Bank

The number of Nigerians active in the labour force plunged by 20 million between 2018 and 2020, the World Bank has said.

The bank said this in a report titled ‘Of roads less travelled: Assessing the potential for migration to provide overseas jobs for Nigeria’s youth.’

It said prior to the significant drop in active labour force recorded between 2018 and 2020, there was considerable growth in the working-age population and the active labour force population from 2010.

According to the report, the country is currently going through one of its worst unemployment crises in recent times.

It said, “Between 2014 and 2020, Nigeria’s working-age population grew from 102 million to 122 million, growing at an average rate of approximately three per cent per year. Similarly, Nigeria’s active labour force population, i.e., those willing and able to work among the working-age population, grew from 73 million in 2014 to 90 million in 2018, adding 17.5 million new entrants to Nigeria’s active labour force.

“Since 2018, however, the active labour force population has dramatically decreased to around 70 million — lower than the level in 2014 — while the number of Nigerians who are in the working-age population but not active in the labour force has increased from 29 million to 52 million between 2014 and 2020.”

The World Bank said the expanding working-age population, combined with scarce domestic employment opportunities, was creating high rates of unemployment, particularly for Nigeria’s youth.

It said due to the rate of unemployment and other socio-economic challenges facing Nigerians in the last 10 years, there had been a massive increase in the number of citizens seeking asylum and refugee status in other countries.

The report said, “Combined with significant demographic changes and increased aspirations of the youth, Nigeria’s unemployment crisis is creating migratory pressure in the economy.

“Unemployment is considered to be a key driver of migration. Consequently, multiple surveys show that the number of Nigerians who are looking to migrate internationally is high and increasing.”

It said the number of international migrants from Nigeria had increased threefold since 1990, from 446,806 in 1990 to 1,438,331 in 2019.

The report said notwithstanding this trend, the share of international migrants in proportion to Nigeria’s population had been considerably constant, with slight increase from 0.5 per cent in 1990 to 0.7 per cent in 2019.

“An important trend that is observed in the data is the rise in the number of refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria. The share of refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria has increased drastically in the last decade, growing from 27,557 in 2010 to 408,078 in 2019,” it said.

The bank noted that although the country seemed to be reaping dividends from the success of its citizens in the diaspora, which contributed five per cent of its Gross Domestic Product in 2019, “the narrative around international migration to the discourse on international migration is worrisome.”

“What is worrying, however, is the increase in the number of forced and irregular migrants from Nigeria,” it added.