There are no certainties now. The economy in Nigeria is such that those who were previously in a position of strength have lost their footing and those who are about to graduate already have cause to fear about the likelihood of gainful employment. Oyinkan Braithwaite writes about this tragic reality
But even those who are fortunate enough to have work are being paid salaries that border on the ridiculous. In my final year of university in England, I chose to work in spite of the academic pressures that I faced. I worked 24 hours a week and earned £600 a month approximately. And I didn’t have to pay tax because I was a student. When I graduated, I applied for a job in Lagos as an editor and I got the job. I was extremely excited; but I didn’t quite understand my salary. I would be earning N80,000 a month, which I was told was reasonable but was less than half of what I had earned in England. This, even though I was a graduate and would be working 40 hours a week.
Since then I have learnt that the cost of labour in Nigeria is low. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who believed they were earning what they deserved to earn. But despite the relatively low wages, the work environment is still high-pressure and low tolerance.
In Nigeria, it is a taboo to leave the office before your boss does, even if you have completed your work for the day and the stars are already flickering in the sky. It is common practice to have an employee work past the typical work hours. And there is never any mention of overtime. In fact, the employee who dares to ask for such…
Nevertheless, I would prefer to work for a lower amount because when an employee is very well-paid in Nigeria, he or she becomes as good as a slave to that company. The demands of the employer become bolder and bolder and soon your weekends are naught but a dream.
This is not limited to Nigerians – an employer will always do what benefits his or her company, above and beyond the employees needs. However, the rights of an employee’s are meant to be protected by a union. Unions are there to set minimum wages; they are there to monitor maximum work hours, child labour laws etc.
The irony is, though the earnings of the average graduate in Nigeria is pitiful, the cost of homes, land, appliances continue to rise. How then is a young man or woman supposed to gather the funds to start a life for themselves? Because of this both men and women are leaving the home of their parents in their late twenties and early thirties. In true chicken and egg fashion, this factor may also be why employers continue to offer low salary, as they know they don’t need to consider the living expenses of their young staff.
This is why young people in Nigeria are looking outside the traditional workplace. It is hard to feel a sense of loyalty to an organisation that seems determined to extract all it can from you until you are as hollow as a kolo. Rather they are choosing to start their own businesses, partner with other youths and find creative ways to fund themselves.
I have been asked several times of late, why I haven’t used my status as a British citizen and returned to the UK to find a better paying, more reliable job. The answer is this, Nigeria is a land full of possibilities. We have not even scratched the surface yet. And the work landscape is changing. Now employers are hiring social media managers, 3D graphic designers, animators, writers, and so much more. Jobs that only a few years a go, would have been ridiculed.
Studying law, medicine, engineering, etc, is no longer the answer. I do not mean there are no values in these jobs – they are as old as time and will be there forever; I just do not see the benefit of an over-saturated industry. Rather than competing with hundreds of thousands of other individuals, one can now forge a path and carve out an industry for oneself.
If working a 9-5 doesn’t suit you and if the pay is not sufficient, there are several other options. These days many people are taking advantage of unique opportunities – they are hiring drivers and allowing their car to earn income as a taxi; they are hopping unto online platforms and setting up mini stores, they are becoming online personalities and earning money from adverts.
And this doesn’t only apply to the bushy haired and brown-eyed, you are never too old to learn new tricks and find your place in the workforce. It is even easier now for a senior citizen to find work, as he or she may work from home, so long as they are internet savvy.
However, I do not mean to paint all employers with one brush. Companies do exist where the employees are treated well and compensated fairly. And one way to find these companies is through
The Returnees network. The Returnees specialise in connecting companies with the calibre of employee that they seek.
Sometimes companies offer low salaries because they are not entirely sure of what they are getting in return, but The Returnees network and by extension Gidijobs, puts that fear at rest by first getting to know the individuals who are part of the network and then recommending those who would be best for the role.
The truth is, employees have more power than they know. And you can increase your worth and value with the skills and knowledge you acquire, not merely through work training but during your personal time. If you package yourself properly, you can name your price and decide your terms. You can change the game.