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  • Writer's pictureEnyenaweh Research

Rural-Urban Migration and the future of the Nigerian workforce

One of the challenges in Nigeria today is the lack of job opportunities spread across the country and as a result rural to urban migration is rampant. When opportunities are not spread across the country, it causes people to move in search of new and better job opportunities. As such internal migration plays a crucial role in understanding how the future of Nigeria’s workforce will be shaped in a few years. This is important as we continue to develop and create job opportunities across the country.

The International Organization for Migration describes labour migration as ‘Movement of persons from one State to another, or within their own country of residence, for the purpose of employment’. Across Nigeria today, people move for a host of different reasons, the priority areas including strife and political unrest, better opportunities, and education. The National Population Commission describes internal migrants as ‘a person who has lived in another LGA for at least 6 months in the past 10 years’ essentially outside their state of origin.

Image courtesy: The World Bank

The benefits of internal migration

Internal migration can offer an opportunity for exchange of ideas, for cultures and religions to mix and therefore encourage more tolerance among Nigerians. Internal migration also means that people are given the opportunity to have access to gainful employment and in turn contribute positively to the economy. In a study by Adeyemi (2013), he explains that internal migration has a positive impact on human development and calls for policy recommendations in key areas including re-conceptualizing internal migration, developing internal migration policies and programmes, providing awareness and education on internal migration, and the importance of developing local economies.

Women’s economic empowerment

The topic of migration becomes even further complicated as we look at the challenges women have in accessing economic empowerment opportunities as they struggle to gain economic independence. Cultural expectations and requirements are such that women are expected to put their familial responsibilities before any other individual accomplishments. However, data also indicates that women and men are constantly on the move in Nigeria as it presents access to better education opportunities as well as cultural exchange and inter-ethnic dialogue as well as those that move to be with their spouses.

Migration and the Informal Economy

A good proportion of those who migrate internally are employed in the informal sector and consequently there are no records of how much they contribute to building the economies of their respective cities. The informal economy hosts jobs such as working in the construction and transportation industries, selling on the streets, in the markets and hawking, as well as those who migrate to enroll in apprenticeship programs. Ultimately, this poses a problem when it comes to social protection for these migrants as well as ensuring they are protected under the labour laws of Nigeria. Due to the nature of the jobs in the informal economy, it is easy for migrants to be exploited as the supply for labour exceeds the demand.

Sustainable solutions

While internal migration might offer Nigerians access to better opportunities, there are underlying factors that cannot be ignored. Foremost amongst these is the issue of overcrowding in urban settlements. The few urban areas in a country like Nigeria are typically not well equipped to handle the mass migration taking place and as such overcrowding ensues. Without adequate policies in place this quickly becomes a health hazard as people are forced to sometimes live in unsanitary conditions and commute to work in environmentally unfriendly methods. In order to reap the benefits of internal migration certain policies should be in place that ensure the availability of affordable housing options. Additionally, other states close to mega cities have a responsibility to collaborate and create innovative solutions that can help spread the population and reduce the burden on megacities.

Another challenge with internal migration is the fact that once people leave rural areas, these areas become neglected and the development is unequal. Innovative solutions that spread across the country without focusing on only the megacities are important. This is because it helps solutions spread more equitably and could develop new areas as well, and in turn reduce the rate of rural-urban migration. One of such ways to do this is by creating hubs and innovation centers to engage youth and keep them active.

Internal migration is a complex topic especially with Nigeria’s population and as such solutions to the problems must be innovative, sustainable and happen across Nigeria. Once innovative solutions are in place and opportunities across the country increase, there will typically be a reduction in how much people move within Nigeria and we will begin to see a more balanced development outcome.

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