NBS New Unemployment Data Misleading


The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics’s new report pegging the unemployment rate at 4.1 percent in the first quarter (Q1) of 2023 and 5.3 percent in the previous quarter has been described as misleading.


This is according to former Statistician-General of the Federation, Yemi Kale.


He said this while faulting the new methodology employed while computing Nigeria’s unemployment data.


This showed a difference of about 29.2 percent from the unemployment rate of 33.3 percent announced in 2020. The NBS said it computed the new data using a methodology introduced by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which aligns with global best practices.


Reacting to this, Kale recalled how he refused to change the country’s unemployment data-gathering methodology for 10 years because it contradicted the system Nigeria operates.


Appearing in an interview on Arise TV, Kale said during his time at the NBS, the committee in charge of reviewing the minimum number of work hours which would count as employment, felt one hour did not make sense because the income generated within that time frame was not necessarily liveable.


He stated that the most important point of data is to “give policymakers the tools they need to understand the problems, proffer solutions, and monitor the impact of those problems”.


Kale said;


“If the policy and data are to match, policymakers need to come out to say that all they are promising Nigerians is one hour of employment, then the methodology works. But if the methodology is focused on one hour and policymakers are trying to look for full-time employment, the data won’t help them.


“It is only there for textbooks, researchers, and international comparison, and there is nothing wrong with that.


“The most important use of data is to provide information for policymakers, not for international comparisons. You have to ensure that your policymakers can use your data.


“This is why I resisted for 10 years because it did not make any sense in terms of providing the information that our policymakers need.


“So, the 20 hours was set because the committee that was set up, which included the ILO, university professors, UNDP, population commission, and CBN, presented their findings and they decided that one hour did not make sense because the income you will generate on an average from one hour’s work was not going to work.


“The 20 hours was decided on because it was agreed that if you work for that duration, you might be able to generate enough income that might sort of equate to what working one hour in the US is, then you have a bit more comparison.”


Kale who noted that what the ILO had set was a base guideline which countries can tweak to suit their need, added that the new unemployment rate pushed out by the NBS will mislead policymakers. 


Reacting to Kale’s comment, Wakili Ibrahim, the head of the communications and public relations department at NBS stated that times have changed and some Nigerians now earn from working for just one hour.


He told Punch; 


“The new methodology is internationally accepted. All our neighbouring countries in Africa are using the new methodology of one hour.


“The world is changing. In high-tech countries, if you work for one hour, you can earn what somebody in a bank cannot earn in one year because of IT.


“Look at lecturers, a lecturer can go lecture for one or two hours, and they will pay him about N200,000 or N300,000 in one or two hours. So, what is the basis for ignoring those ones?


“It is the dynamic world that informed ILO and NBS to adopt this method to capture these people that spend one hour. People will be left out when you use 20 hours as the minimum hour. It is not the question of NBS but the question of the changing world.”


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