Northern Nigerian Breaking News

Ex-Statistician-General faults NBS unemployment data

Dr. Yemi Kale, a former Statistician-General of the Federation/Chief Executive Officer of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), has criticized the methodology used in calculating Nigeria’s unemployment rate from 20 hours to one hour per week.

This comes barely a week after the NBS released new data that put employment at 4.1 percent from the 33.1% it was in 2020 when the bureau released the figure under Kale.

Unemployment stood at 5.3 percent in Q4 2022 and 4.1 percent in Q1 2023. This aligns with the rates in other developing countries where work, even if only for a few hours and in low-productivity jobs, is essential to make ends meet, particularly in the absence of any social protection for the unemployed,” the NBS had said last Thursday.

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Reacting, Kale said he resisted the urge to further change the country’s unemployment data-gathering methodology during his time as head of the NBS.

He spoke on Arise Television’s Global Business Report, on Monday.

According to him, the committee in charge of reviewing the minimum number of work hours to count as employed was of the view that one hour did not make sense because income generated within that time frame was not necessarily liveable.


“I resisted (to change the model for unemployment methodology) for 10 years because it did not make any sense in terms of providing the information that our policymakers need.

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“So the 20 hours was set because the committee that was set up, which included the ILO, 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.

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

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“But policymakers can’t use it, and I must repeat that the most important use of data is to provide information for policy not for international comparison,” he said.

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