“All hard work brings a profit . . . ” – Proverbs 14:23.

In one popular song entitled ‘WORK,’ by a talented Nigerian musician, Adekunle Gold, people are encouraged to work hard. This is just as God’s Inspired Word, The Bible, says at Ecclesiastes Chapter 9, Verse 10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might . . . . “

Work – whether paid or unpaid, is good for our health and well-being. It contributes to our happiness, helps us to build confidence and self-esteem, and can reward us financially. Work is an essential tool through which individuals can achieve their goals, flourish, and live happy, meaningful lives.

One simple definition of work, according to the Cambridge dictionary, is: “an activity, such as a job, that a person uses physical or mental effort to do, usually for money.” Work has different dimensions such as work for making a living and work for developing one’s talent and potential. For example, a little girl in one of the corners of the world who goes to the kindergarten and learns how to count, draw or write, is working. Likewise, an adult, who goes to his/her job every day from 8 to 4 or 5 o’clock, and gets paid for that, is also working. Thus based on the age, circumstances, needs and desires of individuals, work takes different shapes.

Work is a virtue and necessity, which requires the utilization of time and energy. Man is in control of his time and energy when he voluntarily and constructively works. In fact, The Holy Scriptures also emphasize the importance of work, when it says, among other things, at 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 3, Verses 10 – 12, that: ” . . . if anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat . . . ” This scripture condemns laziness. We need to work to make a living and provide for our families. Work provides the individual with the ability to be independent, to flourish, to develop, and most importantly, to find a meaning to life.

However, there are many issues seriously affecting work and workers in Nigeria today. They include the issues of unemployment, poor remuneration/wages, poor working environment and conditions, casualisation of workers, among others. Many people experience poverty and unemployment through no fault of their own. Many who are able to work, willing to work hard, and even actively searching for work, are still unable to find work – they are unemployed!

Unemployment and poverty are two of the major issues currently affecting Nigeria’s economy and its society. In fact, according to the National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) data on unemployment, it was discovered that unemployment increased in Nigeria from 21 million in 2018, to 23 million in 2019. Nigeria has also been ranked as the nation with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty, with 93.7 million people measured to be living on less than $1.90 (N684 at the time) per day, by June 2019. This is disheartening and calls for urgent measures to be put in place, in order to reduce the high rate of unemployment and poverty in the country.

Nevertheless, despite the high rate of unemployment, the situation is not necessarily hopeless. People can still find some meaningful work to engage in, even though it may be small. If you are unemployed, or cannot find a job in your area of particular interest, it is wise to consider looking for a job in other areas, even if the job is considered ‘menial’ by the standards of some people. Do not allow false pride to let you look down on a job – as beneath your dignity. Any legitimate service that can benefit others, and that people are willing to pay for, can be considered as an alternative job opportunity when jobs are scarce.

People differ in terms of many characteristics such as intelligence, talents, academic levels, etc. Therefore depending on human potential and the specific working environment, work can be equally beneficial to the person or demeaning. For example, prostitution, gambling, and drug dealing constitute work, as you get a kind of remuneration for the service you provide. But the money you get out of these kinds of work becomes useless, as it neither contributes to human flourishing, nor is the basis of a meaningful life. Work should be the key to human survival and flourishing, and not to degradation of the individual and his moral values.

On the other hand, no matter how honest, working from dawn to sunset does not make your life flourish either. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” goes the popular saying. Workaholics, the people whose only purpose in life is work, impinge themselves from other activities. Productive work is not an end-in-itself, but a means of flourishing. If one pursues productive work to the exclusion of everything else in one’s life, so that it becomes one’s only purpose in life, this will undermine one’s flourishing. On the other hand, those who keep their life balanced are likely to enjoy their work even more.

Daniel Ighakpe, FESTAC Town, Lagos