One of the prominent presidential aspirants on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar recently took aim at the ruling APC for what he said was its poor management of the economy.
At a July 2018 rally in Adamawa state, Atiku said: “Today, we have the highest unemployment rate in the history of this country. More than 10 million youth are unemployed.”
Africa Check fact checks the presidential aspirant’s claim. The fact-checking portal said it sent queries to Atiku, to his campaign office as well as to Nathaniel Otaba, who handles his online media campaign but had not received any response.
“Today, we have the highest unemployment rate in the history of our country.” - Atiku
According to Africa Check, Nigeria’s latest unemployment data is from July to September 2017. The data reportedly shows that the country’s unemployment rate increased to 18.8% from 16.2% in the previous three months.
Legit.ng gathers that this was the 12th consecutive quarterly rise since the last three months of 2014 when joblessness stood at 6.4%.
Note that Nigeria’s economy slowed down in 2014 and officially entered recession in 2016, which it only exited in the second quarter of 2017.
But in 2011, the unemployment rate was higher – at 23.9%. This is according to the National Bureau of Statistics’s 2011 Annual Socio-Economic Report.
The fact-checking portal, however, concludes that the two periods cannot be compared because the bureau revised how it calculated unemployment in 2014.
In the old calculation method, anyone working fewer than 40 hours was considered jobless. Now, the statistics bureau counts people working fewer than 20 hours a week as unemployed. People who work only 20 to 39 hours a week are seen as underemployed.
Nigeria’s job market ‘still fragile’
“It is undesirable for a presidential hopeful to make such a claim because the methodologies have changed,” said Sarah Anyanwu, a professor of development economics at the University of Abuja.
She reportedly chaired the committee that reviewed unemployment statistics in 2014. “So you cannot compare unemployment rates just like that.”
She added that the claim would only be true if the comparison were for a period after the methods changed.
Still, if the old method were used to calculate the current rate, unemployment may well be higher than the 23.9% seen in 2011, a director at the statistics bureau, Isiaka Olarewaju, told Africa Check.
The statistics body explained in its latest report: “Consequently, [the] unemployed population under the old [method] equals [the] unemployed population under the new method plus the underemployed population under the new method.”
In the most recent data, unemployment is at 18.8% and underemployment at 21.2%. Under the old method, the two figures would be combined to produce a jobless rate of 40%.
“The increasing unemployment and underemployment rates imply that although Nigeria’s economy is officially out of recession, [the] domestic labour market is still fragile,” the report notes.
As the official definition of unemployment has changed, Africa Check rates the claim as unproven.
“More than 10 million youth are unemployed.” - Atiku
The statistics bureau reportedly considers the youth labour force to be people aged 15 to 34.
The most recent data, according to Africa Check, shows 25.5% of people in this age group were unemployed in the third quarter of 2017 – an estimated 10.96 million people. A further 11.68 million young people were underemployed, meaning they worked under 20 hours per week.
“Young people are more likely to face difficulties securing full-time employment and are more likely to be completely idle or take up part-time, leisure, voluntary, or otherwise menial work which is under 20 hours a week, and are thus more likely to be considered unemployed and underemployed,” the December 2017 labour force report states.
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Meanwhile, Legit.ng had previously reported that the All Progressives Congress (APC) said that the restructuring calls of presidential aspirants, Atiku Abubakar and David Mark, cannot be trusted.
The ruling party said neither of the two aspirants were interested in restructuring when they held top offices for eight years.
The APC's acting national publicity secretary, Yekini Nabena, said the campaign for restructuring has become yet another ploy to decieve Nigerians into voting aspirants.
Atiku versus Buhari: Who will win? - On Legit.ng TV