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Can Nigeria’s Unemployment Rate, Unskilled Labour Shape Immigration Pattern in Global Market?

Nigerian economy has not been in good shape for the past five years and first went into a recession in 2016. In 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it plunged into another recession its worst in four decades. Today, unemployment, poverty and insecurity are the basic causes of labour migration in Nigeria.

Reduction in the national output of goods and services and high level of poverty are all consequences of unemployment in Nigeria. The complexities of rural–urban migration, rapid urbanization and urban youth unemployment pose a lot of challenges to policy makers in the country. In 2020, the unemployment rate in Nigeria was at approximately 9.01 percent.

Those who migrate are often the youths leading to high school drop-out, loss of labour and averagely literate groups from rural communities. Emigration of low skilled workers increases low skill wage. There are about 25 million unemployed graduates in Nigeria. Last year, an estimated 20 million Nigerians live in the Diaspora. This is 10% of the total population (200 million). Meanwhile, the population of the metropolitan city, Lagos, increases annually by 3% (14.3 million).

In recent years, the narrative has often focused on the increase of irregular migration from Nigeria when it comes to the discourse on international migration. In 2017 about 3,000 Nigerians in Libya, died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. In order to mitigate these, both governmental and non-governmental actors have put in place strong programs and mechanisms to strengthen border controls, raise awareness against irregular migration, and prioritize domestic job-creation programme’s to address the “root causes” of migration.

Notwithstanding several monetary and fiscal policy benchmark of the government to ameliorate the unemployment level like Medium term Strategy Paper, budget deficit targeted towards construction of basic social amenities needed to create a conducive investment climate, Subsidy Reinvestment Program (SURE-P), National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Skill Acquisition Initiative and N-POWER which is directed towards addressing youth unemployment; the rate of unemployment has continually increased over the years.

In Nigeria the unemployment rate is very high, and migration can partially alleviate situation on the labour market. The unemployment rate in Nigeria is estimated to reach 32.5 percent in 2021 according to Statista projection. About 60% of Nigeria’s 200 million people are under the age of 25, and that number is to increase significantly by 2050. Looking at external destinations as a potential source of employment for Nigerian jobseekers. Nigeria’s National Policy on Labor Migration 2014 recognizes this, committing to “undertake projection of human resource requirements in countries of labor and skills demand, with special attention to emerging skills requirements, to anticipate meeting demand with matching skills”; “develop financial support schemes to help youth acquire skills that are sought after in both domestic and foreign labor markets”; and “promote the participation of employers and trade union organizations in the provision and funding of vocational training and skills upgrading institutions, to meet international skills requirements.”

The Unprecedented Level of Insecurity in Nigeria

Migration flows have increased over the past decade and some progress has been made to improve the integration of immigrants in the host countries. But some of these gains may be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. Yet immigrants are facing a hard time in the labour market. Much of the past decade’s progress in employment rates among immigrants has been wiped out by the pandemic. In all countries for which data are available, immigrants’ unemployment increased more, compared to their native-born peers. The largest increases for immigrants were observed in Canada, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United States. In Sweden, almost 60% of the initial increase in unemployment fell on immigrants. In the United States, unemployment of immigrants was lower than their native-born peers by almost one percentage point before the pandemic, it is now 2 percentage points higher.

The twin forces of digitization and trade are changing the patterns, players, politics, and possibilities of world trade, and can reinvigorate global productivity growth. However, new policy challenges and old regulatory frameworks are stifling the promise of this most dynamic, prosperous, and inclusive wave of globalization yet. In 2019, Canada welcomed 341,000 immigrants in total which is in alignment with its immigration policy to attract skilled workers.

Today, more Nigerians are leaving the country to Canada in search of greener pastures, while more people are on the verge of leaving, making the immigration processes highly competitive. Under its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023, the Canadian government is seeking to welcome at least 401,000 new immigrants annually, beginning this year. Prior to the pandemic, this target was set at 341,000 newcomers. The plan is the most ambitious in Canada’s history. Recently, the UK government has announced a new set of immigration rules and visa policy with effect from January 1, 2021 after the Brexit transition period. Between 2015 and July 2021, a total of 4,528 Nigeria-trained medical doctors have moved to the United Kingdom to practise. The figure is aside from the number of Nigerian doctors who were trained in the UK and are practising there.

In industrialised economies, opportunities abound in the areas such as manufacturing, science and technology-intensive sectors, as well as information technologies. The increased level of digitalization is leading to the Fourth Industrial Revolution – a phenomenon of slowly increasing digitalization and interconnection of products, value chains and business models. Technologies such as eCommerce, 3D printing, 5G, the Cloud, blockchain, artificial intelligence, Robotics, precision machining, data analytics, Bioinformatics, digital imaging, design and animation are revolutionizing the economics of trade and global production, empowering businesses of all sizes to make, move, and market products and services worldwide and with greater ease than ever before. Few young Nigerian possesses these competitive skills.

The expert opined that, inadequate skills is not only a Nigerian problem; it is pervasive across Africa. This explains it, why much of labour migration about 80% in Africa is intra-regional, rather than international. It consists mainly of unskilled workers. Without addressing the problems of skills mismatch and the lack of digital skills, young Nigerians will continue to miss out on opportunities in the global labour market.

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