In search of a productive workforce for national development
Promoting and enhancing productivity in an economy that lacks basic work infrastructure is indeed a laborious task. With about 80 per cent of the business ecosystem operating in the informal sector, organising the group into an entity where productivity can take root poses a formidable challenge.
Connecting the dots that interplay in the various strata that make up the Nigerian economy was the fulcrum of the third productivity summit anchored by the National Productivity Centre (NPC) in Abuja.
Declaring the summit open, which had ‘Mobilising and Managing Eesources for Higher Productivity, Sustainable Growth and Development’, as a theme, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige argued that increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will drive economic growth as the economy will benefit from a deeper pool of tax revenue to draw on.
He explained that improving quality, profitability and meeting customers’ satisfaction are central to improving Nigeria’s GDP, which in turn can reduce poverty in the country.
He explained: “Productivity as the efficient and effective management of available resources remains a key factor that enables societies to generate wealth and sustain development. Essentially, it is the efficiency in which an economy can transform resources into quality goods and services, potentially creating more with less. This is a value-added process and the benefits are far-reaching. It lifts people out of poverty, enhances their living standards, increases national wealth and improves the economy.”
Ngige insisted that the Federal Government would not increase emoluments nor downsize workers without measuring productivity. Ngige explained that Nigeria cannot make progress without productivity measurement in various sectors of the national economy, including public service, banking, business and agriculture.
The minister, who advocated for the propagation of the culture of productivity also stressed the need for Nigeria to measure its productivity as a country.
He said: “We must propagate the culture of productivity. Some people are suggesting that we should downsize because a lot of people are at work. You cannot do that without measuring productivity. The same goes with emoluments. Some people work in ministries, while others work in parastatals like Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). They are not equally paid. The huge disparity in wages does not give a cheer. How we can bridge the gap in wages is important.”
On his part, Director General, NPC, Dr. Kashim Akor, called for the collective effort of the critical stakeholders in the productivity movement and all Nigerians to fashion out solutions to the challenges militating against productivity improvement, growth and development in the country.
In an effort to promote productivity, Akor said the Centre had engaged Nigerians at various levels through productivity research and surveys, productivity promotion and advocacy, productivity coaching and mentoring and award of excellence, among other instruments.
In his remarks, the Chairman, the planning committee of the summit, Dr. Gbenga Bamiduro, said the summit was designed to bring experts and stakeholders together for robust conversations on the mobilisation and management of resources in the country for higher productivity.
On his part, the General Secretary, Federation of Informal Workers Organisation of Nigeria (FIWON), Gbenga Komolafe, who delivered a paper titled, ‘Boosting Productivity in the Nigerian Informal Economy: Prospects and Possibilities’, revealed that there were different measures of productivity and the choice between them depends either on the purpose of the productivity measurement and/or data availability.
According to him, one of the widely used measures of productivity is Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per hour. He submitted that if the quantum of hours worked by over 80 per cent of the working population were prorated per output, the productivity quotient of the Nigerian economy would be extremely low indeed.
He listed work practices, market access, human capital, social capital, infrastructure, firm-fixed capital, farm/non-farm dynamics and the enabling policy and institutional environment as the eight main approaches that are usually taken to increase productivity in the informal economy.
He provided more insights thus: “The work process may be organised inefficiently due to lack of skills, contributing to low productivity. Their lower income from their lack of productive work means that they lack the capital to engage in more productive, higher-return, ventures or to improve the quality of their employment (which in turn contributes to stagnating productivity).
“Low incomes are perpetuated in the informal economy, making the market income-constrained (due to the general low purchasing power of the population); informal economy markets can also be saturated (due to large numbers engaged in similar low return ventures) or dispersed (especially in rural areas). Hence productivity can be low not necessarily because work is organised inefficiently, but because there are no incentives and no resources to keep everyone working productively.”
He pointed out that the main approaches to raising productivity in the informal economy include improvements in work practices, otherwise referred to as ‘job quality.’
Improvements include occupational safety and health and improving access to technology; improving market access to tackle the underemployment challenge of the informal economy; improvements in human capital, either by providing workers already in the informal economy with skill upgrading, or by providing young women and men with greater opportunities to access more relevant, and better quality, pre-employment education and skills training and improvements in social capital.
He insisted that workers in the informal economy need to learn ‘new skills’ that are increasingly common in the formal economy, such as technology and computer, saying the extent that new technologies, particularly Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), biotechnologies and micro-electronics, become integrated into, and contribute to the increased productivity of the informal economy depends on the level of skill adaptation.
Speaking on ‘Enhancing National Productivity Through Operational Excellence’, Oliver Uchechukwu Eze of Nectar Role Consulting identified what he termed as the five ‘M’ of operation management as the key factor in boosting productivity in an organisation.
The five M factors, according to him, include manpower, materials, machines, methods and money. He stressed that optimum productivity cannot be attained where there is inadequate manpower, saying, organizations desirous of high productivity must determine the right number of workers required to perform a task. Train and retrain the workers appropriately, equip them, motivate them and then make concerted efforts to retain them.
Eze added that the materials and or inputs in it are a very critical factor in the production process. To ensure a meaningful productivity level, machines and methods are critical.
Eze disclosed that methods of production are critical in determining the level of productivity, adding that organisations must strive to ensure that they employ the most effective methods in their production activities.
Most importantly, he underlined that the ability of the organisational hierarchy to allocate resources efficiently is capable of significantly affecting productivity.
He held that an organisation’s management could reallocate resources to the most efficient firms that translate the efficiency gains obtained at the frontier into higher aggregate productivity levels and growth rates. To improve productivity levels, Eze urged business owners and managers to be wary of risks and the need to manage them.