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Nigeria’s youth unemployment rate at 53.4%? Cryptocurrency firm goes wrong

According to Pioneers, one in two Nigerian youths is unemployed. But the company mangled the claim by using outdated sources.

  • Nigeria’s statistics bureau did give the unemployment rate for young people as 53.4% - but in the fourth quarter of 2020.

  • However, the agency has since changed how it calculates unemployment, and now considers the “unemployed” as those who do no work for pay or profit, not those who do less than 20 hours a week.

  • This change meant the youth unemployment rate dropped to 7.2% in the second quarter of 2023.

In January 2024, cryptocurrency company Pioneers shared a list of youth unemployment rates in different countries on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Nigeria’s youth unemployment rate was 53.4%, the firm claimed. This was behind South Africa’s 60.7%.

But Pioneers, which appears to be based in India and has more than 40,000 followers on X, didn't give a source for its data. We also did not receive a response when we asked them for this information.

Pioneers appeared to be inspired by X handles such as The Spectator Index and World of Statistics, which often share similar statistics with their millions of followers. 

But are more than half of Nigeria's young people unemployed? We looked at what reliable data tells us.

Measuring unemployment 

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) collects data on unemployment in the country. It defines youth as anyone between the ages of 15 and 24. According to the agency, the youth unemployment rate is the rate of unemployment in this age group.

The unemployment rate is the proportion of the labour force – or the pool of people in a country who are available for work – who are unemployed.

In April 2023, the NBS announced that it had improved its methodology for collecting labour market data through the Nigeria Labour Force Survey, in line with International Labour Organization guidelines.

So what changed?

Under the old methodology, the agency classified the unemployed as anyone of working age who worked less than 20 hours or who was not working but looking for work and was available during the reference period the week in which the NBS conducted the survey.

In the new approach, only people who did nothing for pay or profit are considered unemployed. These people are not in employment, are actively seeking work and are available for work.

This method saw the country's unemployment rate fall from 33.3% in the last quarter of 2020 to 4.1% in the first quarter of 2023.

Youth unemployment was 53.4% in 2020

In March 2021, the NBS published data for the fourth quarter of 2020 in its Labor Force Statistics: Unemployment and Underemployment Report.

The unemployment rate for young people aged 15 to 24 was 53.4% the figure in the claim.

But that's an old statistic.

The most recent data on employment in Nigeria is a labour report published by the NBS in December 2023, Dr Baba Madu, the head of the national accounts division at the agency, told Africa Check.

This sampled 8,836 households across the country and found that Nigeria's unemployment rate rose from 4.1% in the first quarter of 2023 to 4.2% in the second quarter of 2023.

The youth unemployment rate rose from 6.9% in the first quarter of 2023 to 7.2% in the second.

According to Madu, the agency's staff were collecting more recent data at time of publication.

‘Decades of setbacks’

Youth unemployment has been a pertinent and thorny development issue in Nigeria for decades. 

The unemployed and underemployed youth include the uneducated, school drop-outs and school leavers, as well as the educated, Prof Abayomi Adebayo, who teaches economics at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife in south-west Nigeria, told Africa Check.

“The youth unemployment problem is indicative of a far more complex problem traceable to decades of setbacks generated by a bad governance style. It is rooted in infrastructural deficit, over-dependence on imports and an expensive political system,” he said. 

“In my view, we need an employment-oriented development policy and a strengthened real sector to create jobs for the growing number of educated youth.”

Conclusion: Youth unemployment in Nigeria is 7.2% according to most recent data, not 53.4%

India-based cryptocurrency company Pioneers told its more than 40,000 followers on social media platform X that Nigeria's youth unemployment rate was 53.4%. 

This would suggest that half of the country's young people who were able to work were unemployed.

But the alarming statistic is based on old data. The country's statistics office has since changed the way it counts the unemployed. 

Under the new approach, 7.2%, not 53.4%, of the country's young people are unemployed.

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