SCORES of Nigerians in the United Kingdom (UK) have been finding their way back home since January, amid rising unemployment rate and high cost of living in the European country.
According to latest reports from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in the UK, unemployment rose by 44,000 to almost 2.5 million between September and December last year, piling on the misery for households already suffering what Mervyn King has called the biggest decline in living standards since the 1920s.
Youth unemployment rose to a fresh record high, with more than one in five 16 to 24-year-olds out of work after a rise of 66,000 to 965,000 without jobs.
The unemployment rate is now 7.9 per cent, with youth unemployment running at 20.5 per cent.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance increased by 2,400 last month to 1.46 million, with the number of female claimants rising for the seventh month in a row to reach almost 450,000, the highest figure since 1996.
The number of people in part-time work, because they could not find a full-time job rose by 44,000 to 1.19 million, another high since records began in 1992.
Long-term unemployment also deteriorated, with 17,000 more people out of work for more than a year, to a total of 833,000.
A Nigerian returnee, who doesn’t want his name mentioned, said that the development had “thrown many Nigerians into the job market and life is becoming more and more difficult. All over Europe, Europeans are becoming very unfriendly thinking that we are getting all the jobs that they should have”.
The returnee told the Nigerian Compass that he had to come back home, after almost 30 years in the UK, to find something better to do.
“Many of my friends have also returned,” he said.
Other data from the ONS showed that average earnings in the UK rose by 1.8 per cent in the year to December last year, slightly down on the 2.1 per cent growth in the year to November.
The government said that the latest figures showed that unemployment was starting to stabilise.
“We’ve got a long way to go and I want to see these figures start to come down, but certainly, the evidence is over the past month things have settled down and we are not seeing the increases we saw earlier in the last quarter,” said Employment Minister Chris Grayling.
However, most analysts still expect unemployment to rise in the coming months, largely because of public sector spending cuts implemented by the government, which are designed to bring down the UK’s budget deficit.
“These data are less impressive than they were at the tail-end of last year,” said Alan Clarke at BNP Paribas.
“That’s probably consistent with our sense that the economy has slowed a bit right in the middle of 2010.”
According to a report in The Guardian, the unexpected rise in unemployment underlined the challenge facing the government in restoring the feel-good factor to voters battered by rocketing inflation and public service cutbacks.
Economists said that the worse-than-expected news was alarming, because it showed that job losses were already mounting before the worst of the governments’ spending cuts started to bite.
Howard Archer, of consultancy Global Insight, said in The Guardian report: “The labour market data are disappointingly softer overall and fuel our suspicion that unemployment is likely to trend up gradually in 2011 in the face of below-trend growth and increasing job losses in the public sector.”
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, also said: “This rise is no surprise, since the government itself, with the vocal support of the bankers who caused the recession, is deliberately creating unemployment with public sector cuts.”
Women appear to be bearing the brunt of the latest wave of job losses: the number of men claiming unemployment benefit fell by 5,400 between December and January, but the number of women claimants rose by 7,800