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Eliminating Barriers to Women Participation in Labour Market

Ugo Aliogo and Oluchi Chibuzor posit that Nigeria can adhere to the concept of gender equality and remove all barriers that restricts women According to the United Nations, Nigeria lags behind African countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Tunisia, Senegal, Uganda and Cape Verde, which have adopted constitutions and other national laws that provide for equal rights and opportunities, including the special seats or proportional representation system. Giving women a chance, however, to contribute to the economic welfare of themselves and their families through labour force engagement has been proven to bring gains in nearly all areas of development, including poverty reduction, the spread of reproductive rights and associated declines in fertility and the redistribution of responsibilities and rights within the household. The statement by the United Nations is certainly a first step in building a society based on the concept of gender justice. A poll conducted by NOIPolls to take a closer analysis on economic issues alone showed that lack of empowerment (42 percent), poverty (35 percent) and gender discrimination in employment (17 percent) were the top three economic challenges faced by women in Nigerian. Nigeria is however taking steps to address the problem. For instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) regulations mandate a minimum of 30 per cent of females on boards of Nigerian commercial banks. MSMEs development fund guideline mandates that 60 per cent of the loans be given to women. Also, the national financial inclusion strategy recommends increasing female staff of microfinance banks to 30 per cent. Despite the efforts that has been put in place to reduce the gap, a new report by Jobberman in partnership with Mastercard Foundation and Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) paints a different picture. At an event tagged: Gender Roundtable 2022 with the theme, “Unmasking the barriers to Women’s Participation In Nigeria’s Labour Market,” which was held in Lagos recently, the Chief Executive Officer, Jobberman, Oreoluwa Boboye, said his otganisation will continue to combat youth unemployment in the country by training and placing three million youth in decent jobs by 2025 with critical focused on women. The report showed that out of Nigeria’s population of over 200 million, only about 46.4 million are actively employed and that despite Nigeria’s large and diverse pool of labour, only 51 percent of Nigeria’s full human capital potential was fully captured, with women mostly at the receiving end. The research took a survey of three States – Kaduna, Kano and Lagos, was held at engaging strategic stakeholders across private, public and development sectors on how to build a gender-balanced society as suggested by the Global Gender Gap 2021 report. In response to these unfavourable structural conditions and marginalisation, the report revealed that women are creatively redefining work in ways that reinforce their identity, values, talents and skills. Nigeria’s Labour Market The report, which gives an overview of Nigeria’s labour market said young people’s ability to secure dignified employment remains the most significant challenge Nigeria will have to grapple with into the next decade. The report showed that Nigeria has the largest and most diverse pool of labour, compared to other African countries, owing to its vast and youthful population. “With a 4.3 per cent increase by Q4 2020, the number of Nigerians in the economically active or working age population between 15 and 64 years of age was 122 million, with the labour force estimated to be 69.7 million people and about 43.5 percent of these populations said to be women. It is quite clear that the growth rate of Nigeria’s labour force significantly outweighs the rate of job creation, a reality that is truer for women. “For instance, in 2018, about 450,000 new jobs were created while over 5 million people joined the labour force. With a staggering unemployment rate of 33.3 per cent only 46.4 million of her population of 200 million people are in active employment. “Unfortunately, Nigeria only captures 51 percent of its full human capital potential with women mostly at the receiving end. In Q4 2020, the female unemployment rate stood at 35.2 percent compared to 31.5 percent for men. This implies that 7 in every 10 economically active women are unemployed,” the report stated. Nigeria’s labour market dynamics have been further disrupted by the push into the 4th industrial revolution spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and globalisation policies. These have exposed the precariousness of the labour market and fueled the rage of unemployment. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), women are grappling with the negative impact of these realities and the implications have a far-reaching effect on the outlook of both the formal and informal sectors of Nigeria’s economy. Breaking Contemporary Challenges Across the world, most women juggle work with family and care responsibilities, and Nigeria is no exception. It has been recognised that early marriage and family formation play a critical role in women’s access to jobs and it is a more significant issue for young women from poorer households than others. Although girls are more likely to leave school early than boys, they do not then get a job. Instead, young women are much more likely to marry early than men are. Over the years, there are barriers to entry into the labour market for women and to their successful participation within the labour market as girls’ entry into the workforce is conditioned by early marriage and the pressure in starting a family. The gender gap in education limits the choice of occupation for women because completion rates of primary education for boys is about 80 per cent while only 66 percent for girls. Similarly, lack of education and marginalisation from schools and skills acquisition programmes make it especially difficult for women with disabilities to gain employment, whereas Muslim women are less able to participate in a visible work force when compared with women in other religions. Women in Nigeria are less likely to be active in the labour market because more are likely to be in lower-earning opportunities like farming and informal jobs; and earn less for a given level of education and experience than men of the same level. According to World Bank Women’s Labour Market Participation 45.5 per cent of the Nigerian labour force is females as women’s participation in formal and informal labour markets is on a positive trajectory and has been rising in both rural and urban areas through the period 1990-2009 but remains lower than that of males. Changing the Narative According to the Jobberman report, in the last decade, Nigeria has seen a growing number of women joining the labour force both in rural and urban settings. The report emphasised that this can, in part, be attributed to programme outcomes from initiatives anchored around financial inclusion, education for girls, entrepreneurship and delayed child bearing. It revealed that nevertheless, women are still under-represented in the labour force as they find it harder to get dignified and fulfilling jobs and access economic opportunities within the formal sector, relegating them to the informal sector. “Why have women remained under-represented in the labour force and what is the nature of the constraints to women’s labour force participation and access to formal employment? Although it is better understood today than it was two or more decades ago, the barriers that limit women’s transition into the world of work remains an issue whose discussion is embroiled in its own complexity and in the precariousness of poverty, patriarchy and policy. “While these barriers are well established within the literature, the dynamics of COVID-19 and the reality of tech advancements may have shifted the dynamics in ways that require a re-examination. Much of the literature that has dwelt on this subject have associated the barriers with a wide range of issues including access to education and training, sexuai and reproductive health, teenage pregnancy, marriage, domestic responsibility and sexual harassment. “These barriers do not only have real meaning for women’s livelihoods and employment choices. but also have implications on the efficiency and productivity of the labour market. At the same time the pandemic may have broadened the precariousness of these issues making the possibility of realising the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a much distant prospect to contemplate,” the report stated. Women Work Interest The combined effects of COVID-19, and insecurity may be responsible for a larger share of women seeking formal wage jobs. There is evidence of heightened precariousness and huge economic losses especially in small businesses where women are largely dominated. For instance, businesses that involve physical contact and touch; such as cooks, masseuses, make-up artists, have been exposed to huge economic losses, forcing women to consider searching for stable alternative income sources. Insights from the Jobberman’s report suggest that there is likely to be a higher unemployment rate among women in regions where self-employment or entrepreneurship activities are low. “For instance, Kano state recorded the highest number of unemployed women (12.23 percent) as well as the lowest number of women in self-employment (11.29 percent). Data from 968 women surveyed across Lagos, Kano and Kaduna shows that self-employment and contracts continue to serve as a critical buffer against high unemployment rates across the three states as only 26 percent of women surveyed across the three states are in full time employment.” Being a Woman Delivering her keynote speech, the former executive secretary and chief executive officer at Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, Yewande Sadiku, maintained that women need equity and not equality in terms of access to opportunities in the country. “Women must develop a reputation for hard work, high quality delivery and be very aggressive and intentional in investing and building passive income. Women must be shameless in breaking barriers that come in different forms around them,” she said. The Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Folasade Adefisayo, noted that workplaces that have better environments are made of more women. “Women are hardworking, creative, interesting, innovative and disciplined when they put their heart to it and have not been belittled by social expectations. Bring up your girls to be different and stand out. In breaking the barriers, let us work together with an open mind and be ready to work with anybody,” she advised. The Strategies The Jobberman report also suggested that investment in the care economy reduces the burden of care and domestic work on women in order to enhance the quantity and quality of labour market participation. It recommended statewide investment in the provision of affordable and dependable care services including childcare, people with disabilities and the elderly.

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