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Nigeria grapples with surge in unemployment amid pandemic

Night scene in Lagos with streetlights and roads
Residents walk under a road bridge as night falls in Lagos, Nigeria, on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

The number of people looking for employment through Nigeria’s biggest recruiting website has jumped five-fold since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the struggle faced by many in Africa’s largest economy.

“Typically we have about 10,000 active jobseekers a week,” Hilda Kragha, Jobberman’s chief executive officer, said in interview in Lagos, the country’s financial capital. “During this pandemic, we have been having over 55,000, which means more people are looking for jobs.”

Like many countries Nigeria has been hit hard economically after implementing lockdowns to contain the spread of coronavirus. Africa’s top oil producer was also reeling from a collapse in crude prices earlier in the year and is suffering from rampant dollar shortages. Combined they have exacerbated the strain on a wide range of businesses in a country that has long struggled to provide jobs for its young population.

The data from Jobberman, which recruits mainly white-collar employees and doesn’t track those looking for non-skilled, blue-collar work, chimes with official estimates that sees unemployment in the nation of more than 200 million soaring to 34% by the end of the year from 23% in 2019.

While there was a 40% drop in recruitment in March when the first two weeks after movement restrictions were imposed, applications per vacancy on the online platform has jumped by 183% this year.

With Nigeria’s economy set to contract 5.4% this year, according to International Monetary Fund estimates, IT and telecommunication firms are topping Jobberman’s hiring charts as Nigerian companies, like others worldwide, adapt to an at-home workforce. Likewise the hospitality, tourism, travel, aviation, entertainment and oil and gas industries have fallen to the bottom.

Firms are also cutting down on the number of staff they need or are putting off offers to new employees as they reassess their plans.

“We have a client who was trying to hire 2,000 people before the pandemic, as the pandemic started they reduced to 500 and now they’ve only confirmed about 200 people,” Kragha said. At least 10% of those already offered jobs through the platform have been put on hold by their potential employers.

Jobberman, which is a local unit of Ringier One Africa Media Group, has over 2 million registered job seekers on its platform and placed 16,000 jobseekers in roles in the past three months, according to Kragha.

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