Lack of large manufacturing base, absence of regular power supply, and low productivity are critical factors that are putting an unrelenting chokehold on Nigeria’s economy. Speaking about low productivity, the three foremost important factors of production happen to be land, capital and labor, with labor outlay overrunning the rest. To achieve a sustainable economic viability, every nation aims at achieving high productivity in every sector of its economy.
In defining productivity, Irving Mintzer in 1992 crystallizes the concept as, “The output of any production process, per unit of input. To increase productivity means to produce more with less… In factories and corporations, productivity is a measure of the ability to create goods and services from a given amount of labor, capital, materials, land, resources, knowledge, time, or any combination of those. Since capital goods tend to decline in value and wear out, most economists distinguish between gross capital productivity (total yield) and net capital productivity, which discounts depreciation.”
Looking at Nigeria, this piece attempts to raise some questions concerning goods and services produced by the government ministries, departments, and parastatals with a given amount of labor. Since labor cost takes up a chunk of total cost of running a corporation, particularly running the government; it is pertinent to alert the public about the inefficiency of labor utilization in both government and private sector.
Low productivity among workers in Nigeria is not new. In fact, it has been reported in the past that the average industrial capacity utilization in Nigeria is below 50 per cent and that phenomenon has not changed. Also, various ministers in the past have complained about indolent workers in their respective ministries. So, in July 2004, the Federal Ministry of Finance reported that about seventy percent (70%) of its 1,560 workforce are unqualified for the job assigned to them. In the same year, the USA Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), dated July 20, 2004, in which the Board of Directors of MCC identified Nigeria as one of the seventy poorest nations in the world to receive the “United States economic assistance under Part 1 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961” for the “Fiscal Year 2005”, as its per capita income appears to be “equal to or less than the historic ceiling of the International Development Association of $1465”. Sadly, also, in the same year, Head of Service of the federation, Alhaji Mahmood Yayale Ahmed revealed that out of the 180,000 core civil servants, 60 per cent of them are unskilled workers. He alarmed that the greatest problem was the unskilled manpower and a radical reform in the civil service through the National Economic, Empowerment and Strategy (NEEDS) must be matched with skilled manpower.
Twelve years later, nothing has changed and there has not been any significant improvement in productivity levels in both private and public sector. Today, malingering among workers seems to permeate every facet of Nigerian public sector economy due to poor work attitude and, or unskilled workforce. This is in no way a blanket indictment on the entire workforce. However, one cannot go to any government office and receive services expeditiously. This phenomenon is not limited to government offices in Nigeria. It occurs in Nigerian embassies and consulate abroad.
In Nigeria, it has been the political culture to hire people based on affinity or relationship—nepotism. Oftentimes, people are hired for jobs they are not qualified for simply because of favoritism. As a result, both public and private sectors are replete with wrong people holding important jobs.
Consequently, you will find people who have the skills set in wrong jobs with inept supervisors. This rabid situation breeds mediocrity and inefficiency, thereby resulting in a significant low productivity. Sad still, lack of adequate compensation to people with adequate qualifications creates some personal problems that seem to interfere with job performance.
Low productivity arising from malingering and unskilled labor impedes economic growth and fester poverty. Low productivity emanating from unskilled workers and uncommitted attitude would impede a nation’s capacity to be competitive in a global economy. In a situation where labor is not utilized efficiently, any catastrophic event would tip the country into the valley of perpetual poverty.
Thus, Nigeria has to enhance its labor efficiency to avert economic ruin. This is the time to judiciously invest the oil windfall for the collective benefit of the entire nation. Efficient delivery of services is paramount!
To stem low productivity in both the private and the public sectors, the management at each level must not only model good behavior backed up with reasonable sanctions to deter lethargy, but also must be skilled and eschew any grain of nepotism. The management must lead by examples while firmly focusing on merit, competence, and proficiency.
Similarly, there should be a thorough study of the actual hours private and government employees perform per day, week, and per month. This will help to determine if the time on the job is congruent with required work hours. All private and government offices have to know how much time employees spend on the job description, which they are hired to perform. It is absolutely vital that the employees perform the job for which they are hired to do instead of spending time on other things thereby robbing the masses of the benefits of private and government services.
To evaluate productivity, private and government agencies need a well-constructed and objective evaluation instrument to fairly appraise the productivity of their workforce periodically with salary incentives. The productivity incentive and adequate salary for the various jobs will perhaps discourage workers’ involvement in other economic activities during their normal work hours. More importantly, the country has to invest in educating its citizenry. The educational curriculum would be geared toward providing the skills, knowledge, growth, and attitude crucial for competitive advantage in a global economy.
The focus should always be on cutting edge technology, as well as culture hard work and creativity. It is imperative that the workers are technologically literate and competent. Consequently, the vitality of society and the economic growth of the country largely depend upon a well-educated and healthy productive workforce.
Nigeria’s economy needs healthy workers too. Unhealthy population is inimical to both social and economic growth. Obviously, the quality of healthcare system is poor. It is incumbent upon the policymakers to work feverishly to improve the healthcare sector of the country if the country plans for its workforce to be competitive in the global economy.
Again, when there are wrong people in the right jobs, obviously, there must be right people in the wrong job. To tackle the situation, the trend must be reversed otherwise; low productivity will continue to be a bane of Nigeria’s economic quandary.
Invariably, the level of productivity affects per capita income of a country. But the dangerous combination of low productivity and corruption in the country will certainly debase Nigeria in a competitive global economy.