Workers’ Day 2017: Poor Minimum Wage Debacle and Rising Unemployment –Ishola Adebayo

May 5, 2017

The 2017 International Workers’ Day was commemorated on Monday, 1st of May 2017, and declared a public holiday by the Federal government to allow Nigerian workers join their counterparts from all over the world to celebrate the International Workers’ Day also known as Labour Day.

Amidst events to commemorate the day, the leading trade union organizations in the country - the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) – have heightened their call for the Nigerian government to address issues pertaining to the wages and welfare of Nigerian workers.

Last year, NLC and TUC had submitted a proposal of N56,000 and N90,000 to the Federal Government as new minimum wage and admonished the government to urgently set up a committee to discuss the proposed new minimum wage, but this is yet to be officially bargained, to arrive at a consensus.

Recent figures from NBS put unemployment rates at 13.9 percent, representing a rise in the level of unemployment from Q4 2015 (6.4 percent) to Q4 2016 (10.4 percent). With a population of about 190 million people, from which over 50 per cent are between the ages of 15 to 34 and about 47 per cent of this number is unemployed, experts say the rate of unemployment in Nigeria among this demographic group is dangerous. The National Population Commission also noted that there is a high rate of growth of youth unemployment because every year the universities send thousands of youths to the society in search of jobs.

Similarly, while unemployment has remained at the front burner in most policy discussions in Nigeria, Labour Unions have also argued that strengthening the country’s manufacturing sector could serve as a panacea to resolving the unemployment crisis in the country. In a recent interview, a Labour leader urged the government to re-invest in all the moribund textile factories and steel rolling mills as a way of kick-starting the nation’s economy back to life.

Despite the fact that various programmes have been set up to address the issue of unemployment in the country, only very few of these programmes have recorded maximal impact, compared to the number of youths who are still unemployed till date and sometimes such programmes are mere jamborees, which open a window to fraudulent enrichment of those recruited to implement the programme.

It therefore behooves on stakeholders concerned to bridge this huge gap by thinking out of the box to create some solutions youths in Nigeria can relate with, considering their cultures, peculiarities and their environmental upbringing.