Nigeria’s working-age population is set to expand by a record 133 million between 2020 and 2050, adding to existing job pressures, the World Bank has said in a new report. But while the population within the working-age bracket grows, the active labour force, especially in the last six years has shrunk rapidly, as joblessness drives many out of the country for greener pastures abroad.

Multiple surveys indicate that the number of Nigerians who are looking to migrate is high and increasing. According to the World Bank report titled, “Expanding legal migration pathways from Nigeria to Europe (from brain drain to grain gain) presented on Wednesday, Nigeria’s unemployment crisis pushed 1.4 million of its citizens out of the country in 2019, and it’s expected to have risen considerably since then.

Share of refugees and asylum seekers from the country jumped by 308, 521 in 9 years from 27,557 in 2010 to 408,9778 in 2019. As a share of the international migrant stock, this represents a 3 percent rise to around 28 percent. These are some of the findings from the World Bank reported which detailed issues around labour migration in Nigeria.

At 33 percent current levels, Nigeria’s jobless rate is the second-highest on Global List, as more than half of its labour force is unemployed or underemployed. The unemployment rate, especially for the growing number of youth has dramatically increased and stood at above 40 percent as of the fourth quarter of 2020. Unfortunately, the labour force is increasingly more educated – but with fewer opportunities raising frustrations among educated youth.

“Combined with significant demographic changes and increased aspirations of the youth, Nigeria’s unemployment crisis is creating migratory pressure in the economy,” the World Bank noted in the report. The Bank, however, strongly believes that Africa’s largest economy could turn its present brain drain to gains with right the policies.


“Despite serious and valid concerns around loss of skilled individuals and increase in irregular migration, the benefit of regular international migration largely outweighs the cost,” Samik Adhikari, economist at the World Bank and lead author of the report pointed out in his presentation.

Adhikari, while presenting the report virtually said even though there are concerns around increasing migration of active population, Nigeria can turn the brain drain to gains by providing the legal framework to ease and expand pathways for migration of citizens. He said the country should tackle high and growing unemployment, spur innovation, and reap more dividends from current and returning migrants, among others from international migration.

Even though Nigeria is the 6th largest recipient of remittances globally with $25 Billion remittances in 2019 (5 percent of GDP), Adhikari said the country can benefit much more, but added that there are some bottlenecks. On why Nigeria does not benefit much from international migration, he said it was costly and exist few channels for regular migration, as well the lack of policy instruments to facilitate migration.

Adhikari, therefore, urged Nigeria to put in place key elements such as “Bilateral Labour Agreement to facilitate safe and remunerative migration and support overseas placement of Nigerian migrants.


Author avatar