The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has released the latest issue in its COVID-19 Impact Monitoring series. This latest survey is the 12th in its series, which is conducted with unspecified support from the World Bank, and took place in April this year. Whereas the first was held amid the federal lockdown in April 2020, there were far fewer restrictions at the time of this latest survey. The same sample of 1,950 households is contacted by telephone for each issue in the series. The focus this time is the impact of COVID on Nigerian youth, which is defined as within the 15-25 years age bracket. Another data series from the NBS highlights the predictable impact of the pandemic on the jobs market, with the national unemployment rate rising from 27.1% in Q2 '20 to 33.3% in Q4. Unsurprisingly, the pain was felt most by younger Nigerians: the rate was 53.4% for the 15-24 years group and 42.5% for the 15-34 years bracket. It is unlikely that the picture has since improved despite the FGN's public works programmes.
The survey points to a high degree of optimism among respondents. As many as 63% among the poorest quintile think it likely they will secure their dream job. In the richest quintile, the figure rises as high as 92%. This optimism may be linked to another survey finding that 71% of youth interviewed know somebody in their community holding such a job.
The four most popular dream jobs for this group at the age of about 30 are trader/business person (22% of the total), doctor (17%), engineer (8%) and tailor (7%). The dream of being a trader in more popular among female than male respondents. The creation of a broad-based, diversified economy in our view requires more engineers, doctors and accountants (6% of respondents) than traders and civil servants (6%).
As they move towards their dream jobs, 87% of those surveyed are either in school, training or employment. The implied unemployment rate of 13% is much better than indicated by the NBS labour market report for Q4 '20. It is lower for males (7%) than females (19%) surveyed.
The principal sources of income are employment (47% of respondents) and family support (41%). For savings, the figure is just 4%.
The poorest quintile has the greatest dependence on income from their jobs (64%) and the least access to backing from family and friends (21%). For the richest quintile the numbers are 38% and 50%.
We can see the cumulative damage of the pandemic when we look back to the first survey taken in April 2020: among households generally (and not just youth), almost 30% then relied on savings as their coping mechanism and about 25% received support or borrowed from friends and family. Household savings were largely exhausted over the 12-month period.
Reverting to the date per quintile, the World Bank maintains a Gini coefficient index on the basis of household data surveys from national sources (when available) and its own country departments. If there was an equal society, it would score zero in the index. Nigeria is far from the most unequal society, being scored at 35.1 on 2018 data. To make some parallels, this compares with 40.8 for Kenya (2014), 51.3 for Angola (2018), 53.4 for Brazil (2019) and 63.0 for South Africa (2014).
Encouragingly, 89% of respondents are happy to be vaccinated provided that no cost is involved. This is consistent with the findings of the sixth and tenth surveys in the series.
Given the sample size, the survey findings clearly do not feed into macroeconomic data and projections. There appears to have been some slippage with the distribution of this latest survey but generally they are timely, throwing light on the economy and society more quickly than, for example, the national accounts. This timeliness should also be a bonus for policymakers.