The total labor force in Nigeria was estimated at about 66 million in 1999. Of those gainfully employed, 70% were in agriculture, with about 10% in industry, and 20% in services. The estimated unemployment rate in 2002 was 28%.
The four labor federations were merged in 1978 into the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), which was strengthened by legislation establishing a compulsory dues checkoff system. Unions were strengthened by government decrees and a new constitution in 1999. Freedom of association and the right to strike were restored. The NLC is the only legal trade union organization (outside the petroleum industry) and claimed a membership of about four million in 2001. About 10% of the workforce was unionized in 2002.
In 2002, the minimum wage level of approximately $75 per month for federal workers and between $55 and $65 per month for state employees. Formal sector private employers follow the public sector standard. These wages are sufficient to provide a family with a decent standard of living. The workweek is set at 40 hours, but there is no law prohibiting excessive compulsory overtime. Children as young as 13 may work with special restrictions. In reality, as a result of crumbling public schools and dire economic conditions, many children of all ages work. The law stipulates minimum occupational health and safety standards, but such standards are not effectively enforced.