Home Business COVID-19: Nigeria Labour market show signs of wear as job losses mount

COVID-19: Nigeria Labour market show signs of wear as job losses mount

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Dr Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment

By Audrey Lotechukwu

FRI, MAY 01 2020-theG&BJournal- ‘’The times and environment can be summed up in one word-uncertainty,’’ a labour top boss told theG&BJournal. ‘’There is never a time like this in a very long time, and of course you know that uncertainty is never good for business. Since this week I have heard quite a number of stories about lay-offs, salary cuts and company closing down, particularly the Small and mid-sized companies, and each time companies come up with the coronavirus (COVID-19) as the reason to sack or close.’’

The latest of such sack seen by our reporter comes from an aviation services company, Seymour Aviation Services Company, the same day that Access Bank Plc, one of the biggest banks in the country informed its staff it was cutting their pay.

‘’….It is in this regard that I write to inform you that with effect from May 1 2020, all staff would proceed on indefinite leave without pay. Only a few essential staff will be retained to ensure facility maintenance and at 50% of pay. We will continue to review the situation every month and update you,’’ Seymour Aviation services company wrote to nearly 85% of its staff.

The Federal Government closed all international airports with effect from Monday, March 23, 2020 as part of measures to curb the spread of the disease, sending all jobs in the sector to sleep since then and it is not certain when that will be reversed.

The aviation sector in Nigeria, experts say, will be one of the hardest hit too, just like the bad news emanating from the global aviation industry. The latest International Air Transport Association (IATA) report on global passenger traffic for March 2020 shows that demand (measured in total revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) dived 52.9% compared to the year-ago period, the largest decline in recent history, reflecting the impact of government actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Many international and local airlines have since grounded their fleets. It is reckoned that aviation and its related sector will take a hit of up to $2 trillion in 2020. Airlines alone are projected to lose up to $200 billion.

In the banking sector, most of the bank shut their branches as the pandemic spread and sent nearly half of their work force home. In the oil industry, the global oil price drop off has not only hurt the country’s revenue pot, but has also put thousands of jobs at risk.

The country’s informal sector-about 64.6% of GDP (about three-quarters of GDP in 2010) is equally hit hard by the pandemic.

Globally, two billion people have jobs in the informal economy, representing the most vulnerable workers in the labour market, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) who recently highlighted their predicament in a recent report.

TheG&BJournal reckon that this May Day will go down in history as one of the most sombre given the uncertainty in the job market and the number of phone calls and emails it has received from staff who are either asked to go home ‘’until further notice’’ or simply told to go home indefinitely.

Nigeria civil servants face a bleak future also with the imminent cull following the approval given by President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure and rationalize the sector, based on the Stephen Oronsaye Committee report. Experts say the pressure on Federal Government revenues brought on by the coronavirus pandemic forced the federal government to rethink the size of its work force.

The Oronsaye Committee recommended the abolition of 38 federal agencies in all, the merger of 52, and the reversion of 14 Agencies to Departments in relevant ministries as well as the discontinuation of funding of professional bodies and councils. There are varying estimates about the number of Nigerians employed in the Federal civil service, some say about 90,000.

One thing is certain when the Oronsaye report is implemented-half of that number will be looking for job elsewhere.

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