Are Nigeria’s labour laws on women outdated, discriminatory?

By Yejide Gbenga-Ogundare


Over time, in the fight for equality, advocates have claimed that some aspects of the labour laws in Nigeria are detrimental to the rights of women to equality and many are forced to remain in what is perceived as traditionally female-focused industries such as dress-making, hair dressing, teaching and such feminine classed profession.

For example, women are not allowed to work on the production line at night, though nurses and broadcasters run night shift. It is illegal under the law for women to work overnight undertaking manual labor and companies found guilty are penalized for breaking the law.

This affects women because managers find it difficult to promote a woman to be in charge of others if she had not been in the trenches with them, on the nightshift, at some point in her career. This law is seen as biased against female candidates, reinforcing cultural beliefs that already discourage Nigerian women from pursuing manufacturing jobs.

This makes women remain under-represented in the sector, and most occupy sales or administrative jobs. This makes some ask why  Nigeria’s laws make it harder for women to work than men.

It is not only detrimental to women but to the economy of the nation. An analysis done by economists recently said Nigeria’s gross domestic product could grow by 23 percent by 2025 if women are allowed to participate in the labor force at the same rate as men.

Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggested that Nigeria could make its vulnerable economy more stable by improving its low levels of gender equality; Currently, Nigeria ranks 122nd among 144 countries on the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap index.

McKinsey Global Institute also says that the greater gender diversity on executive teams of companies have serious relationship with profitability and value creation in a company as any company with diverse workforces are more likely to perform better financially, attract top talent and are more customer-oriented with better decision-making processes.

It says companies gain more when women executives are responsible for the core revenue-generating part of the business as opposed to support roles such as human resources or I.T. services.

But for Nigeria’s companies, the law still impedes the appointment of female executives in core manufacturing roles and until women have experience of all jobs on the production line, managers remain unwilling to promote them and companies suffer for it.

The labor law that restricts women from working night shifts should be changed, as should several others. This is just one of the legal barriers that Nigerian women face when looking for work. But according to a recent World Bank report, most countries still have laws that make it harder for women to work than men.

And according to Women’s Advancement Deeply, “Nigeria can make its vulnerable economy more prosperous by reforming the laws that prevent women from fully contributing to society. Until then, it is in the hands of companies to lead the way.”



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