Key questions this article answers:

  1. The National Bureau of Statistics has unveiled a new unemployment methodology. How different is it from the old one? 

  2. The new methodology changes the working population and Nigeria’s unemployment rate. How will it affect incoming unemployment data and policy-making afterwards? 

Data can inform or misinform, depending on who uses it and why. 

The UK, for instance, used this slogan: “We send the EU £350 million each week—let’s fund our NHS instead” to gain public support for Brexit in 2016. The contextual value of £350 million didn’t matter. What mattered then and now is how data can sway public opinion.

Bringing this home, it’s easy to point out that Nigeria plays a dangerous game of numbers, often to garner public support and sway public opinion like the UK example. One data point that solidifies this stance is unemployment. Who doesn't want to have good jobs, and what politician wouldn't want to be remembered for increasing employment rates? Certainly not Nigeria’s president. 

With just a few days left in office, President Buhari unveiled a new long-term development plan: National Agenda 2050 (NA 2050), aimed at reducing the unemployment rate to 20% in 2025 and 6.3% by 2050. 

This (perhaps unintentionally) coincides with the release of Nigeria’s new methodology for computing unemployment, which will reduce unemployment to the projected levels in the NA 2025 (20%). How so? This is why we’ll unpack the new labour statistics methodology by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in today’s story. We’ll assess the changes, their significance and their potential impact on policy-making. 

We do this because understanding how unemployment data is derived helps to make sense of it. It lets us know if plans like the NA 2050 are realistic or just another flashy game of numbers. More importantly, it spotlights the government’s blind spots for better allocating