Asylum seekers wait to be processed at the Quebec-New York crossing. Credit: Reuters

By OBINNA EZUGWU

Fifty percent of Nigeria’s 200 million people want out of the country for a better economic future abroad, an increase of nearly 20% since 2014, a new report by World Bank has shown.

Consequently, several foreign embassies in the country are having hard time keeping with the pressure of requests by Nigerians. Our findings reveal that these include such far flung countries such as Ukraine and other eastern countries.

The figure underpins the growing hopelessness in Africa’s country, beset by rising unemployment, escalating insecurity and high inflation.

It’s a country where everything seems to be falling apart. Unemployment is at over 33.3 percent. Youth unemployment rose to 40.5 percent in Q4, 2020. Poverty rate is rising rapidly. In 2018, Nigeria, a country of roughly 200 million people, overtook India – with 1.3 billion people – to emerge poverty capital of the world, according to World Poverty Clock.
Nearly 90 million people, approximately half of the total population, are living in extreme poverty. Yet, the country faces a major population boom and is anticipated to become the third most populous country in the world by 2050, with little or no infrastructure to absorb this growth.

Faced with the grim prospect, the middle class who can afford to do so are leaving through legal means, while the less privileged are taking sea routes. There is hardly anybody who does not know someone who hard recently relocated or trying to do so.

The World Bank report titled, ‘Of Roads Less Travelled: Assessing the Potential for Migration to Provide Overseas Jobs for Nigeria’s Youth’, published on its website last week, said Nigeria is facing one of the most acute jobless crises in recent times.

The report found that about 50 percent of Nigerians are willing to leave Nigeria for a better economic future abroad, an increase of nearly 20% since 2014, and said the country ranked 3rd highest in West Africa behind Liberia (70%) and Sierra Leone (60%) of responders who would move permanently to another country.

This, it said, has been driven in part by rising unemployment among other factors. According to the report, “Between 2014 and 2020, Nigeria’s working age population grew from 102 million to 122 million, growing at an average rate of approximately 3 percent per year. “Similarly, Nigeria’s active labor force population, i.e., those willing and able to work among the working age population, grew from 73 million in 2014 to 90 million in 2018, adding 17.5 million new entrants to Nigeria’s active labor force. Since 2018, however, the active labor force population has dramatically decreased to around 70 million—lower than the level in 2014— while the number of Nigerians who are in the working-age population but not active in the labor force has increased from 29 million to 52 million between 2014 and 2020. “The expanding working-age population combined with scarce domestic employment opportunities is creating high rates of unemployment, particularly for Nigeria’s youth. Between 2010 and 2020, the unemployment rate rose five-fold, from 6.4 percent in 2010 to 33.3 percent in 2020.

“The rise in unemployment rates has been particularly acute since the 2015-2016 economic recession, and has further worsened as COVID-19 led to the worst recession in four decades in 2020.
“Unemployment rate, defined nationally as the percentage of the labor force population who could not find at least 20 hours of work in the reference period, was significantly higher for youth (42.5 percent) compared to non-youth (26.3 percent). Women are also particularly vulnerable in Nigeria’s labor market. Compared to 46.4 percent of male population who are fully employed, only 40.6 percent of women are fully employed.

“The share of fully employed is significantly lower in rural areas compared to urban areas. Increasingly, educated Nigerians are struggling to find employment opportunities in the country. While unemployment rates have increased substantially for Nigerians across all education levels over the years, it has become progressively challenging for educated Nigerians to find employment opportunities.

“Between 2010 and 2020, the unemployment rates for Nigerians with secondary and post-secondary education increased by more than 30 percentage points, preventing new educated entrants in the labor market from earning returns on human capital investment.”

The report said the unemployment crisis, combined with significant demographic changes and increased aspirations of the youth, is creating migratory pressure in the economy. “A combination of rising unemployment, booming demographics, and unfulfilled aspirations is increasing the pressure on young Nigerians to migrate in search of gainful employment overseas. Unemployment is considered to be a key driver of migration.

“Consequently, multiple surveys show that the number of Nigerians who are looking to migrate internationally is high and increasing. The proportion keen to leave permanently has increased from 36 percent in 2014 to 52 percent in 2018, according to Gallup.

“Data from Afro Barometer show that the desire to migrate is higher among unemployed (38 percent), youth (39 percent), secondary education graduates (39 percent), urban residents (41 percent) and post-secondary graduates (45 percent) in Nigeria.”

The report emphasized that Nigeria accounts for 20 percent of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa and is projected to be the third most populous country in the world by 2040, with over 400 million inhabitants.

The report said that since there has not been an expansion of legal migration routes for youth increasingly eager to find opportunities in the overseas labour market, young Nigerians are opting for irregular migration routes to realise their hopes for a better life.

According to it, the number of first-time asylum seekers from Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria peaked in 2016, at the height of the European migration crisis, before subsiding in late-2017.

The report said, “Nigerians represented the largest group of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa to arrive in Europe in 2016 and 2017. Nearly 40,000 Nigerians arrived in Italy in 2016 with over 90 percent arriving via sea routes. A larger share of Nigerian migrants arriving to Italy was women (32 percent) compared to migrants from the rest of SSA (24 percent).

The report said Nigerians applying for refugee status increase 1,380%, amid worsening unemployment crisis. The Washington-based institution disclosed that the number of international migrants from Nigeria has increased threefold since 1990, growing from 446,806 in 1990 to 1,438,331 in 2019.

It explained, however, that despite this trend, the share of international migrants as a proportion to Nigeria’s population has remained largely constant, increasingly slightly from 0.5 per cent in 1990 to 0.7 per cent in 2019.

The bank said recent rise in irregular migration notwithstanding, the share of international migrants in Nigeria’s population was much lower compared to the shares in Sub-Saharan Africa and globally.

The data showed that the number has risen by over 1,380 per cent in the years between 2010 and 2019, indicating that in comparison, the number of persons coming into Nigeria from outside has been relatively stagnant in the decade under consideration.

“An important trend that is observed in the data is the rise in the number of refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria. The share of refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria has increased drastically in the last decade, growing from 27,557 in 2010 to 408,078 in 2019,” it stated.

It noted, however, that although the country was reaping dividends from the success of its citizens in the diaspora, which was put at five per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019, when it comes to the discourse on international migration, the narrative has not been palatable.

It stressed that to ensure mutual cooperation, the European Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), which was established in 2015, with the aim to promote areas of mutual development interest between Europe and Africa, has since provided more than €4 billion in aid to African countries to address various development-related challenges and priorities in Africa.

Since its inception, the EUTF, the bank stated, has provided more than €770 million for migration-related projects in Nigeria, with most of the funds invested in border control measures, awareness campaigns to stop trafficking, and the creation of jobs domestically, including for returned Nigerian.

While predicting that by 2100, Europe’s working age population between the ages of 20 and 64 would decline by 30 per cent owing to low birth-rates and increased longevity, it further projected that at same time, the working age-population in Nigeria could increase by 140 percent.

“By expanding legal pathways for migration and implementing supporting measures to reap dividends from current migrants in the diaspora, Nigeria can further benefit from international migration.

“Nigeria’s institutions are well-placed to promote managed migration approaches that help create opportunities for prospective Nigerian jobseekers to find employment internationally and can be supported to help design schemes that increase the returns to human capital investments for Nigerian youth,” the report concluded.

In a related development, the Bretton Woods Institution estimated that 4,000 Nigerian children were made orphans by the COVID-19 between March 2020 and July 2021.

The report by the bank’s experts at the Imperial College of London, revealed that over 4,100 Nigerian children lost one or both primary caregivers within the aforementioned period, while 4,300 lost one or both primary and secondary caregivers.

The report posted on the bank’s blog was jointly authored by World Bank’s Lead Economist, Laura Rawlings and a senior technical advisor, Centre for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 International Task Force, Susan Hillis, and titled: “For every two COVID-19 deaths, one child loses a caregiver. We must do more to address the orphan crisis.”

The report stated: “The COVID crisis will leave many unwanted legacies. The world has been closely tracking the COVID-19 death toll, with official mortality counts now reaching over four million people, largely concentrated among adults. The children left behind have been practically invisible.

“Our estimates of the toll on children left behind, just released, are that for every two people, who die of COVID, one child is left orphaned, facing the death of a parent or grandparent caregiver, who had been living in their home.

“By the end of June 2021, because of COVID-19, our estimates show that nearly two million children under 18 years had lost a mother, father, and/or grandparent caregiver, who lived in their household.”

According to the experts, countries with primary caregiver death rates of at least one per 1,000 children include Peru (10.2 per 1,000 children), South Africa (5.1), Mexico (3.5), Brazil (2.4), Colombia (2.3), Iran (1.7), the USA (1.5), Argentina (1.1), and Russia (1.0).

They also noted that at the current rate, one child was being orphaned every 12 seconds due to a COVID-19-associated death, adding that the toll was growing.

The authors noted that the COVID-19 related deaths had a wide range of effects on the children from economic, developmental to psychological impacts, which would reverberate across generations.

According to them, children orphaned by COVID face a constellation of risks, which often arrive with rapid and broad consequences.

“The threats of poverty, malnutrition, displacement and separation from siblings or other family members, school dropout, depression, violence and child marriage can emerge suddenly from the Pandora’s box of COVID-19,” they said.

Nigeria had as of July 20, 2021, recorded about 2,128 COVID-19 deaths, suggesting that for every one death in the country, an average of two children become orphans..

 

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