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World Bank urges Nigeria to focus on skills and productive jobs

Nigeria needs to create 40-50 million more productive and higher-income jobs by 2030 to support its booming population, poverty reduction and inclusive growth, the World Bank has found.

The bank called on Nigeria to skill-up its population, focus on agriculture and establish effective social safety nets to support the more than 170 million people in Africa’s most populous country.

In its report, published on 15 March, the bank said “two Nigerias” seem to be emerging: one in which high and diversified growth is providing more job and income opportunities; another in which workers are trapped in traditional subsistence activities.

It also found a geographic divide, with northern Nigeria having low levels of education access and higher youth underemployment than the south, which is also experiencing more demand for cognitive rather than manual skills.

Research shows that the majority of adult Nigerians are employed, but locked into low-productivity and low-income work, with no job or income security.

Half of working Nigerians are in small-holder farming and a further 30% are working as self-employed in small- or micro-household enterprises in the non-agricultural sector.

The bank said their work is not enough to escape poverty or move their households into the middle class.

It argued these informal microenterprises shouldn’t be overlooked, with around 4 million of them having the capacity to generate wage jobs.

The formal sector has a much greater potential to grow and generate employment opportunities, but it is limited by low productivity, especially in the North.

Reducing crime, improving access to credit, reducing losses due to power outages and increasing use of the internet stand to make the biggest gains to productivity, and help the private sector grow enough to absorb large numbers of Nigerians.

A transition to more productive employment will also require more skills, the bank noted. Currently, some 30% of young people in the country have not completed more than primary education.

Measures to improve the market relevance of technical vocational education, strengthen job accreditation and certification and help existing workers upgrade skills would also be beneficial, the bank said.

With the agriculture sector set to remain the country’s largest employer for the foreseeable future, the bank emphasised that the need to focus measures here is critical.

By Emma Rumney and originally published in Public Finance International.

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