Nigeria may have to contend with mass job losses amid the coronavieus pandemic, unless urgent moves are made to support the private sector.
The Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), among others, has advocated the establishment of a Job Retention Scheme, where government pays up to 60 per cent of private sector salaries until June, as long as workers are not laid off, as done in other climes like the United Kingdom, France and Denmark, among others.
NECA’s director-general, Timothy Olawale, said that would reduce the negative impact on businesses and slow the rate of job losses.
“While a lot has been said on the intervention of the Federal Government and various coordinated efforts of other stakeholders, more decisive action on stimulus to businesses needs to be taken. The announced stimulus, to a large extent, has not addressed the critical needs of businesses that will guarantee sustainability and protection of jobs.”
According to him, much more could be done now, not belatedly, to save jobs in Nigeria, “More direct intervention such as direct wage or income support, wage subsidies, tax credits or tax deferrals, short-term work schemes, moratoriums on loan payments and the establishment of a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.”
He said much has been said and understandably so about the need to safeguard jobs in the interim and in the long term after the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that employers of labour were not sadists or trigger-happy when it comes to making the hard decision to part ways with employees.”
“However, hard business decisions as these are seldom unavoidable, if the needful is not done. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine,” he said.
Olawale lamented that five weeks of economic and business shutdown has stretched thee economy to its limits and businesses are beginning to buckle under the burden without a corresponding productivity from workers and support from government.
He added that while businesses remain passive and unproductive with attendant mass loss of revenue, overhead costs remained, while wages obligations to workers and several statutory payments without respite remained constant.
He called for the gradual relaxation of the lockdown to provide equilibrium between protection of lives and efforts to keep productive activities going as done in Ghana, Germany and some other countries.
“Without delicately balancing the scale, the consequential negative effects of the pandemic will not only include unimaginable loss of lives, massive job losses and heightened insecurity, it might also lead to unnecessary social revolt,” he warned.
He stressed that, with a large chunk of the population of the country in the informal sector and many surviving on daily wages, the continued total lockdown has the tendency to further cripple businesses, hasten the rate of job loss, and increase the level of poverty, with consequential effect of increased insecurity.
“A relaxed lockdown with legislated state and national guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus will go a long way in maintaining the gains of the past few weeks,” he said.