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‘I resisted it for 10 years’ — Yemi Kale faults new methodology for unemployment data

‘I resisted it for 10 years’ — Yemi Kale faults new methodology for unemployment data
August 29
10:02 2023

Yemi Kale, former statistician-general of the federation, has faulted the new methodology used in computing Nigeria’s unemployment data.

Kale spoke on Arise Television’s Global Business Report on Monday.

On August 24, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics released a new report that pegged the unemployment rate at 4.1 percent in the first quarter (Q1) of 2023 and 5.3 percent in the previous quarter.

The new figure showed a difference of about 29.2 percent from the unemployment rate of 33.3 percent announced in 2020.


The NBS said the new methodology — introduced by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) — aligns with global best practices.

Reacting to the report, the former statistician-general said he had refused to change the country’s unemployment data-gathering methodology because it contradicted the system Nigeria operates.

Kale said during his time at the NBS, the committee in charge of reviewing the minimum number of work hours to count as employed, felt one hour did not make sense because the income generated within that time frame was not necessarily liveable.


The economist also stressed that the most important point of data is to “give policymakers the tools they need to understand the problems, proffer solutions, and monitor the impact of those problems”.

“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,” he said.

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

“The most important use of data is to provide information for policymakers, not for international comparisons. You have to ensure that your policymakers can use your data.


“This is why I resisted for 10 years because it did not make any sense in terms of providing the information that our policymakers need.

“So, the 20 hours was set because the committee that was set up, which included the ILO, university professors, UNDP, population commission, and CBN, 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.”

Kale, however, said unemployment figures from the NBS have always been in line with the international benchmark.


He said in many of the countries that pushed for the new standard, one hour of work made sense, adding that what the ILO had set was a base guideline and countries could tweak it to suit whatever their needs are.

The economist, therefore, said the new unemployment rate could be misleading to policymakers.



In his response to Kale’s views, Wakili Ibrahim, the head of communications and public relations department at NBS, said times have changed and some Nigerians now earn from working for just one hour.


He insisted that the new methodology was in line with international standards.

“The new methodology is internationally accepted. All our neighbouring countries in Africa are using the new methodology of one hour,” Ibrahim told Punch.


“The world is changing. In high-tech countries, if you work for one hour, you can earn what somebody in a bank cannot earn in one year because of IT.

“Look at lecturers, a lecturer can go lecture for one or two hours, and they will pay him about N200,000 or N300,000 in one or two hours. So, what is the basis for ignoring those ones?

“It is the dynamic world that informed ILO and NBS to adopt this method to capture these people that spend one hour.”

Ibrahim added that if the new methodology was not used, “people will be left out when you use 20 hours as the minimum hour. It is not the question of NBS but the question of the changing world.”

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