In Nigeria, many find themselves overworked and underpaid, trapped in jobs that demand much but offer little in return. This situation arises primarily because of the high level of desperation among job seekers. With limited job opportunities, many people are willing to accept almost any employment offer, no matter how exploitative. Employers, aware of this desperation, often take advantage, expecting excessive work while providing minimal compensation.

Many employers overwork their employees, assigning them numerous tasks with little regard for fair compensation. It’s not uncommon for staff to be expected to work seven days a week, putting in ten-hour days, all for an amount that barely covers basic expenses like transportation, feeding, and data or subscription fees.

Rasheedat Bello’s Story

Rasheedat Bello, a 41-year-old woman from Ilorin, Kwara State, embodies this struggle. Living in the small town of Shao, she has been working as a cleaner at Kwara State university for eight years. Despite her long tenure, her circumstances remain difficult.

“I got a job offer at KWASU to be a cleaner as my last resort,” Rasheedat recalls. “Due to my lack of educational qualifications, I couldn’t find a better job.” This job, however, came with its own set of challenges. The salary was meager, and transportation costs were high.

“To save on transportation costs, I rely on free rides from other workers,” she explains. “Sometimes, we have to trek a long distance to find a place where we can possibly get a ride. After hours of standing, we eventually get one.”

Rasheedat’s responsibilities extend far beyond her job. She has three children, each living with different relatives due to their financial situation. “I always assist them with my salary at the end of the month,” she says. “I pay for their monthly apprenticeships to ensure they have some future prospects.”

Her financial struggles have intensified with recent economic changes. “I earn 30,000 naira monthly,” she shares. “Despite the income, it’s still not enough. I have to save up through monthly contributions to assist my kids. Once I gather about 100-200, I can pay school fees and their apprenticeship fees. I also use this money to feed because my husband does not always provide at home.”

Rasheedat’s physical and mental health has also taken a toll. “I suffer from body aches and joint pain due to prolonged trekking that comes with looking for free rides”. “If I fall sick, I sometimes stay away from the hospital because I can’t afford it,” she says. “Instead, I buy herbal concoctions or go to a local pharmacy.”

To make ends meet, Rasheedat often takes on additional work. “I volunteer to help people around my area, sometimes far away, to wash clothes or clean houses. Some give us 2,000 naira, while others give as much as 3,000 per day,” she reveals. “I also do laundry work for students at the school after my cleaning shifts.”

Rasheedat Bello’s story is an example of the struggles many Nigerians face daily. Despite working tirelessly, she earns just enough to scrape by, illustrating the harsh reality of being overworked and underpaid. Her experiences underscore the need for systemic change to improve working conditions and ensure fair compensation for all workers.