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Mitigating Effects of ‘Japa’ Syndrome

The word ‘Japa’, which means to flee in Yoruba, is now trending in Nigeria, particularly for those that desire to leave for greener pasture abroad.

A report by the Africa Polling Institute in 2021 claimed that seven out of 10 Nigerians were willing to relocate to other countries for various reasons, with a good number of them recording success.

This was corroborated by Afrobarometer, a pan-African research institution, which revealed in a recent report that Nigeria was one of the top 13 Africa countries whose citizens emigrated for employment, study, security and other reasons.

About 5,405 Nigerian-trained doctors and nurses are reported to be working with the National Health Services (NHS) in the United Kingdom (UK).

The figure, released by the British government, stated that Nigerian medics constituted 3.9 per cent of the 137,000 foreign staff of 202 nationalities working alongside British doctors and nurses.

It is doubtless that Nigerians who emigrate are highly qualified specialists with skills in engineering, medicine, education, law and information technology, among others.

Most of them are gainfully employed as doctors, nurses, lecturers, and IT professionals in the U.S., the UK, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and other countries.

However, others struggle to make ends meet with jobs such as cleaners, cab drivers, construction labourers, hair dressers, automobile repairers and retailers.

Experts believe that many Nigerians will yet emigrate unless proactive steps are taken to stem the gale of resignations by Nigerians from organisations across various sectors in the country, with its accompanying effects on the Nigerian economy and the livelihood of citizens.

For that to happen, public and private sector organisations and human resources practitioners must embrace some management dynamics, to retain the country’s best talents to add value to the country.

This was the high point of the Kaizen Academy Ltd.’s Webinar Series with the theme: “The Great Resignation; Passing Phase or Redefining Work Culture? Special Focus on Mitigating Impact, Business Continuity, and Maximising Employee Engagement,” on Thursday.

The session was moderated by Mr Ayokunle Ayoko, a governance expert and Company Secretary, Berger Paints Nigeria Plc.

Already, Berger Paints Nigeria Plc has emerged as the first company in Nigeria to commence a four-day work week, from July 1, to upscale productivity through flexible operation and extended rest period for its staff.

Experts agree that the coronavirus pandemic has made employees to be more aware, and hence demand a work environment that supports work-life balance and mental health, engendering the push for remote work options.

Already, Lagos residents have complained about the man-hours spent on the roads to and fro the workplace due to traffic congestion from ongoing repairs, road constructions and the rainy season.

To maximise the output of those that are ‘left behind,’ Mrs Oluwakemi Akinnubi, Pioneer, HR Springboard, U.S., tasked government and organisations to massively invest in technology to accommodate remote work system.

Akinnubi noted that the country needed to consider the official adoption of ‘pay as you go’ salary structure like western countries to help employees take on several jobs and better their standard of living.

She stressed the need for employers to be more sympathetic towards employees’ predicaments and provide incentives to stop mass  resignations.

“While the need for remote work cannot replace the social needs of seeing people around the workplace, companies and governments need to understand that there’s a workplace disruption going on and quickly adopt measures to cater for employees.

“Companies are realising quickly that the consumer is no longer king; employees are the new kings.’

“Already, organisations in the USA provide gym membership, creche services and other incentives as bargaining power for their staff.

“Managers must continue to push certain pecks around to ensure that the welfare of the employees are in place so that everyone is happy and the workplace goes on as it should,” she said.

Mr Seye Olurotimi, Founder, MSME Africa, noted that whatever affected the workforce and the economy, invariably distorted growth dynamics of any nation.

He said technology provided access to unlimited global opportunities, with many people leaving traditional workplaces for tech startups for flexibility and better control of their time.

“People now understand the need for work-life balance, for more family time, lot more flexibility, which allows for remote work as long as it is productive,” he said.

He noted that employees needed a lot more motivation, and advised companies to improve on welfare packages, conduct exit interviews, and create a room for regular feedback to identify what is wrong to stem the tide of mass resignations.

He also recommended giving employees equity as part of the remuneration in the business to make people feel like they own a part of the business.

Mrs Gbonju Akintola, Learning and Organisation Development Consultant, United Kingdom, House of Commons, stressed the need for the Nigerian work environment to become better to address the tide of the Great Resignation.

“The country must achieve better working conditions, provide incentives to tackle inflation, address poverty, insecurity, and others,” she said.

Mrs. Omobolanle Imafidon, HR Administrator, Focus Care Link, UK, stressed the need for better staff treatment, better working conditions that understood and accommodated the mental health of employees.

According to her, people are naturally drawn to where they are happier and supported better beyond what they get at work as salaries.

“A worker identified to be claustrophobic, and you push that person into a cubicle to work saying that’s what is obtainable and available; you definitely won’t get the best of that person.

“You must be sensitive to your employee’s needs, and adopt a hybrid mode of work seeing that even medical consultations can now hold over the phone,” she said.

Mrs. Aramide Nwokediuko, Group Company Secretary, CFAO Nigeria, said responses of employers to those that wanted to leave their jobs could also reduce the tide.

She noted that the same situation happened between the 80s and 90s and jingles were aired to encourage people to stay behind to build the country.

“The people yearn for a decent environment, power, access to better education and other opportunities for their children, and the ability to afford a standard way of life,” she said.

Indeed, these are the reasons for Japa, and once they are addressed, experts believe that Nigerians would be more encouraged to stay and the economy would be better for it.



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