Population Magic: Labour Force & Registered Voters

[By Zeal Akaraiwe]


Although statistics can appear to be just numbers, they are much more than that. The more you examine those figures, the more significance you see in them, but on the other hand, Ronald H. Coase, a renowned British economist, asserts that, If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.  Therefore, analysing statistical data requires training, and when you lack that training, interpretation might be challenging. Because of this, I’m confident that very few of us are aware of and grateful for the important work the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) performs for us through the data they produce.

Understandably, for neutrality, they just publish the statistics/data/numbers – whichever you choose to call it – without the analysis nor the implications of the numbers and they leave you to perform the detailed analysis and draw your own conclusions.

It is crucial that you keep in mind the terminology and information below while you read this article since they will be useful to you later on.

  1. The age range of 15 to 64 years is known as the labour force population or work force. I wish it had been 18-64 but never mind that, we can make the appropriate adjustment.
  2. Nearly 45% of the population is under the age of 15.
  3. Only 3.5–4% of the population is over 65.

I believe there is a significant correlation between the following metrics: total population, population workforce (as a component of the overall population), registered voters, age demographics, and just for kicks, I’ll throw in petrol consumption.

Let’s start with Katsina State, where the population is estimated at 5.7 million but the workforce is only 1.7 million (30%), based on the NBS data. This doesn’t seem to mean much until you realise that there are 2.9 million registered voters.

I asked you to keep in mind the three points I outlined at the beginning of the text and it’s time to visit them again. Having a workforce of 15–64 years old but roughly twice as many registered voters who are 18 years and older when the demographics show that the age group between 15 and 18 years old is about 10% of the population, while those above 64 years old are no more than 4%, is  a very near statistical impossibility. “Near”, I said, not totally.

In contrast let’s consider Anambra State, which has a population of 4.1 million and a workforce of 3.1 million (75%). Here, there are 2 million registered voters.

When petrol consumption is added, Katsina uses 124 million litres and Anambra uses 534 million litres, to “weight” the population statistics as a population must consume petrol to facilitate movement.

I don’t need to be reminded that one incident doesn’t necessarily indicate a trend, so let’s compare the most populous and “prosperous” states in the north and the south, Kano and Lagos, for another example.

In contrast to Lagos, which has a population of 9 million, a workforce of 7.1 million and 6 million registered voters, Kano has a population of 9.4 million, a workforce of just 3.7 million and yet, 5.1 million voters.

As in Katsina, it is fairly unusual to have a voting population that is higher than the labour force, and it should be noted that the two terms, “labour force” and “employed” are not synonymous. “Work Force” is the number of people in the population who are willing to work and are between the ages of 15 and 64. One good example of why we can have a higher voting population than labour force will be a situation where school enrollment for those between the ages of 15 to about 25 is very high but, with the high out-of-school incidence prevalent in most of the states exhibiting the anomaly, that’s certainly not the case.

I can do this state by state, but that would be a very monotonous and laborious task, so here is the summary:

There are 14 states in the country where this problematic situation occurs – voter registration being higher than the number of people in the labour force –  and all of them share the same trait. Take a wild guess at what it might be…

The states are: Niger, Nasarawa, Plateau, Gombe, Bauchi, Adamawa, Yobe, Jigawa, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, and Kaduna.

As I previously stated, it is an extremely uncommon circumstance to occur in a state, and we may forgive it for a variety of reasons, but for it to happen in 14 states makes things much more problematic, especially as all the states, without exception, share something in common.

I did take into account the possibility that state poverty would be a factor, so I looked at a very impoverished state like Bayelsa, which has a population of 1.4 million, 1.2 million workers, 750,000 registered voters, and fuel usage of 90 million litres; and compared it to Jigawa, which in contrast, has 4.3 million residents, only 1.4 million workers, but yet, 1.9 million voters and just 35 million litres of petrol consumption use per year.

If you’re wondering why I keep including fuel consumption, it’s simply because it is a fairly simple piece of information to obtain with some degree of credibility, and since populations are mobile, it is safe to assume that the more people there are, the more movement there is, and the more movement there is, the more petrol is consumed. Except when they are trekking in very large numbers or diverting the petrol. As a small digression, another intriguing coincidence was that the majority of the states with the greatest per-capita petrol consumption were the border states. It should be obvious where the leaks are coming from. That, however, is a tale for another time.

In summary, all this makes me wonder on a few questions:

  1.  How can you have more voters than the workforce?
  2. How come the workforce is so small compared to the population?
  3. Why is this anomaly prevalent in ONLY one section of the country? When it is put side by side with the reported under-aged voting, does it have more of a meaning than we give it?

I think we ought to start looking critically at these things and, using data as ammunition, challenging authority to give explanations. When a governor made a promise in the form of bragging rights, to get 5million votes (they had 5.1 million) in a state with only 3.7 million as workforce, shouldn’t that be challenged?

However, like I said, I’d let you draw your own conclusions and of course, all this data is available on the NBS website if you want to dig further.

This is just a teaser to get us all digging and thinking.



 -Zeal Akaraiwe is the CEO of Graeme Blaque Advisory | Twitter: @zeal_a | Linkedin: Zeal Akaraiwe

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