Nigeria’s Overcrowded Job Market Has Been Agitated By The Pandemic Bug

By  |  May 28, 2020

Nigeria’s job market is wild

The last time Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) was bothered to release official data on the unemployment situation in the country was in 2018. That year, the number of unemployed increased four-fold, and the unemployment rate reached 23.1 percent (rising from 5.1 percent in 2010).

Like most countries in the developing world, Nigeria’s economic growth has been outpaced by population explosion by quite some distance. The result? A growing army of unemployed and underemployed individuals, most of whom are in their youth — a ticking time bomb, some might say.

Between 2015 and 2018, 15 million Nigerians entered the labour force yet only 3.5 million jobs were created; it’s a dire situation. Being a human resource manager is a nightmare, every job ad inevitably leads to an unending sea of applications.

As revealed by Jobberman (the 11-year-old company which calls itself the single largest job placement website in sub-Saharan Africa), when a large commercial bank advertised 80 entry-level jobs on Jobberman’s platform recently, over 21,000 people applied within 48 hours.

In the public sector, the numbers are worse. In January, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) advertised for 5,000 positions; it was swamped with 1.4 million applications in a matter of days.

Yet what often gets lost in the conversation, surprisingly, is the fact that despite the overwhelmingly surplus number of jobseekers, employers struggle to fill roles. And this is because finding qualified candidates is a struggle, apparently.

“There are some issues around job-readiness, with many employers commenting that jobseekers simply do not have the much-needed skills and competencies that make the ideal work-ready professional,” Hilda Kragha, CEO at Jobberman, told WeeTracker.

“As a result, even the most educated people are unable to secure dignified work, as most are not equipped with the right skills to succeed in the work that is available.”

This makes for another problem; underemployment. In the third quarter of 2018, Nigeria’s underemployment rate stood at 20.1 percent.

According to the most recent statistics, the underemployment rate in Nigeria is 16.6 percent; a great many Nigerians are not working full-time or are overqualified for their job, which could be in the informal sector. (A classic example is the university graduate riding Okada to make ends meet.)

It’s a mismatching problem – the right candidates aren’t flowing to the right jobs. Due to all these factors, the folks at Jobberman say the platform has a steady ratio of 3 jobs for every 100 applicants.

Throw in the COVID-19 effect

It’s the year 2020 and a global pandemic is wreaking havoc. Over 356,000 lives have been lost to the coronavirus and the humanitarian toll has been just as devastating as the impact on economies and industries.

To stay afloat long enough to maybe survive the storm, layoffs, pay cuts, and furloughs have been unavoidable. For example, in the U.S. where the present administration was bragging about its impressive job figures months before the virus hit, a total of 26.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since March.

In Nigeria where the unemployment situation seems to have been out of control even before COVID-19, it’s hard to imagine anything besides the idea that things have probably gotten much worse since then.

“In an effort to streamline and reduce losses brought about by the pandemic, employers are cutting roles to reduce their overhead,” said Kragha.

“It was difficult enough for the average young person in Nigeria to secure dignified work pre-COVID. However, the pandemic has made the process even more complicated, especially with the fact that a lot of companies have had to cut costs by slashing salaries or letting go of employees,” she added.

Indeed, there have been both confirmed reports and unconfirmed rumours of layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts in Nigeria since the pandemic forced a 6-week nationwide lockdown that was eased not that long ago.

According to Jobberman’s chief executive, job listings on the platform signal that a number of industries — including Automotive & Aviation, Art & Design, and government sectors — seem to be feeling the impact of the economic downturn more than any other sectors.

Kragha revealed that inference was drawn from the fact that those sectors have fewer new job listings compared to this time last year.

At the beginning of March, Jobberman Nigeria saw a 70 percent decrease in job listings due to the reduced economic activity caused by the COVID-19-enforced lockdown, and many companies trimming down recruitment budgets to cut costs. Jobseeker sign-ups also decreased by 17 percent. 

Why take their numbers seriously? Well, in addition to having its fingers on the pulse of the Nigerian job market, the platform boasts over 2.2 million jobseeker profiles, around 60,000 registered employers, and over 700,000 applications per year.

Tech is winning

But there may be some gloss in the midst of the gloom, though. While COVID-19 has certainly crippled some sectors, it may have — in a manner of speaking — breathed new life into others; like the technology sector, which contributed 13.8 percent to Nigeria’s GDP in 2019. 

Per in-house data, Nigeria’s technology sector is showing some resilience, contributing 18.9 percent of all job opportunities featured on the Jobberman platform in April.

Besides that, it appears locked doors on one end could imply open corridors on the other. Although there was a significant dip in job openings in the earlier months of the year, there may be cause for optimism as the past month was quite the rally.

“Even in the midst of this crisis, there are still vacancies that need to be filled. In April alone, we had almost three times as many job listings on the Jobberman website as we did at the same time in 2019,” she said.

“There were also more new jobs listed in April than in January, February, and March combined and 98 percent of new jobs were full-time jobs,” Kragha told WeeTracker.

Other positives

Jobberman’s data also revealed a 183 percent increase in new job listings in Nigeria for April 2020. The same month accounted for almost a fifth of listings for positions in the tech sector.

Apart from the technology industry, other sectors that are in good form are banking, finance and insurance with 9.27 percent of jobs listed in April, and education and training with 6.78 percent. IT & Software (11.69 percent) job functions were only second to Sales (13.32 percent) in terms of job functions with the newest roles.

When compared to April 2019, there were almost three times as many new job listings, which is encouraging, given the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the jobs market. Jobseeker sign-ups also increased in April by 39 percent.

This uptick in job listings, which is sort of bucking the trend, is probably connected to the company’s #UnityInAdversity campaign which enabled companies to post job listings and access its database of over 2.2 million professionals across Nigeria for free.

The CEO said the campaign is a show of support for businesses and individuals rocked by COVID-19 and will continue until the end of June.

What will Nigeria’s job market look like post-COVID-19?

The World Bank estimates that 30 million new jobs are needed by 2030 to keep the current employment rate (which is not exactly a great place to be).  

Meanwhile, a report by the African Union mentioned that there will be over 20 million jobs lost in both the formal and informal sectors if the situation continues. 

“We have also seen an increase in job seekers on our platform and many employers slash their recruitment budgets,” said Kragha.

“Countries like Nigeria and Ghana have relaxed their lockdowns to stem the flow of job losses and ease the pressure on businesses. Governments have the unenviable task of balancing the need to protect citizens’ wellbeing with the responsibility of keeping the economy going.”

She further emphasized, “People also need to continue to go to work in order to make a living as there are no safety nets, and the relief packages can only go so far.”

The Jobberman CEO reckons that Nigeria’s overcrowded job market is already a lot more competitive during the pandemic and will likely become even more cutthroat when the pandemic subsides.

“It is great to see that there are still some job opportunities despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There will be a lot of competition for these roles, however, and only the candidates that set themselves apart will be best placed to take advantage of these opportunities,” she said.

The coronavirus outbreak has certainly inspired new working processes for businesses that are currently operating — stuff like remote work, telecommuting, and virtual collaboration have become the new way of life.

Businesses are looking for ways to bounce back once the pandemic is over, and there’s no doubt that they will be on the lookout for the best talents. Thus, jobseekers will need to up their game if they are to be best positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that are likely to come up.

As Kragha put it, “Jobseekers who want to be placed in the right positions post COVID-19 will need to be tech-savvy and very adaptable, possessing the right soft skills to succeed in the job market. Competition for these roles will be stiff and only the candidates that set themselves apart will be best placed to take advantage of these opportunities.”

Soft skills, in particular, are getting a lot of shout outs these days. Research has shown that young people with soft skills have better chances of passing the interview stage, getting hired, and are more successful in the workplace. And it’s no surprise that the ‘headhunter-in-chief’ is talking it up as traits that can give one the edge in these times. 

As she told us, “Soft skills are traditionally overlooked but they can be very useful in the interview process as well as on the job. Soft skills such as personal effectiveness, time management, effective communication, business etiquette, critical thinking, and problem-solving, amongst others, are skills most employers require when hiring candidates.”

Featured Image Courtesy: TheGuardianNG

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