autocratic rule, Urban workers, wage increases, Union activities, NLC
In 2000 the labor force totaled 50.3 million, up from 30 million in 1980. Women made up 37 percent of the force, men 64 percent. An estimated 3 percent of all workers were in agriculture, down from 54 percent in 1980; 75 percent were in the service sector; and 22 percent were in industry, including mining, manufacturing, and construction. Data on Nigeria’s labor force, however, have limited value because most Nigerians earn their living in more than one field. Urban workers “moonlight” to make ends meet and rural dwellers have second jobs to supplement farming. Accurate unemployment rates are difficult to obtain and generally mean little in a society where many who work are marginally employed and where begging is a socially accepted occupation.
In 1985 Nigeria’s central labor union, the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC), founded in 1978, totaled 3.5 million workers belonging to 42 industrial and professional unions. In the mid-1990s the largest memberships belonged to the Nigerian Union of Teachers; the National Union of Banks, Insurance, and Financial Institutions Employees; and the Nigerian Textile, Garment, and Tailoring Workers Union. Union activities have increased with the economic downturn of the 1980s and 1990s and the government’s efforts to strictly limit wage increases. Among the most active unions are those representing petroleum workers and university teachers, which have challenged the government not just on salary and economic issues but also on abuses of human rights and autocratic rule. In 1993 and 1994 the National Union of Petroleum and National Gas Workers held prolonged pro-democracy strikes that succeeded in disrupting the economy.
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