I can make a list of things to be scared of (and since we live in Nigeria, this list is going to be pretty longgg), but I assure you, none of them are as scary as the prospect of losing your job. The panic as you receive that final letter, the pretentious “exit interview” scheduled for your last day, the goodbyes from your coworkers, the pitiful cries of “eya”, “chai” and “God dey sha”  as you pack your things in a little cardboard box and head towards the exit. The mini existential crisis that follow as you power through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventual acceptance of your new reality. The ensuing job search as the life goes on and the bills pile, oblivious to the obvious dent in your bank account. The sinking feeling as this reality persists-often longer than expected. This is a real fear…and it can happen to anyone.

 

With unemployment rates in Nigeria at a whopping 33% (2nd highest globally), there’s no gainsaying the labor market has become a fierce competition as job slots are filled to the brim with applicants. Studies show that millennials seldom stay in one job role longer than 2 years at a time- the fact is you’re more likely to be between jobs sooner or later. So many factors affect job loss as it’s not always up to a staff mistake. A company could be struggling and decide to downsize, mergers/acquisitions could occur leading to staff turnover, or any other number of things could happen and lead to job loss. Whatever the scenario, your working experience does not adequately prepare you for a life without a job. As we like to say at Bento, salaries are the Operating System on which life is built and a sudden shutdown of that OS will always be a major shock.

 

How do people hedge against this? The most common way is to have multiple streams of income so one does not always have to depend on a single money source to survive. The average Nigerian now works a couple of side jobs as a support system for the mainspring that feeds his or her account. This is a testimony to the indefatigable spirit of the average Nigerian but at the same time, splitting your time between a 9-5 and running a business can be tricky. Not everyone is cut out for the rigors of growing a company or brand and let’s not forget – 50% of businesses fail by the 5th year. 

 

This problem is not unique to Nigeria but out in the west, there are solutions. In the UK, government schemes ensure that people who have lost their jobs, receive some income via unemployment cheques, provided they show evidence they are currently on a job hunt.  It’s the safety net they provide for their citizens, knowing just how complicated work/life can be. Sadly, back home, our safety net often falls on our family and friends. From a young age, we learn to depend on our familial connections as our support structure as we journey through life. As times change and our parents get older, it falls on us to shoulder our responsibilities. Uncertainties like the current COVID-19 pandemic (which led to record unemployment levels around the world) cannot be predicted, hence the need for a safety measure.

 

We decided to create a solution to this job loss problem that truly caters to the employee facing these uncertainties in life.  We partnered with Tangerine Life – one of the top 3 insurance companies in Nigeria, to release this product- an alignment of our visions. Now, just as one can pay car insurance on a vehicle in case of an accident to cover repairs, we extend the same option to African employees, helping people find safety and security in the wedge that a couple of months salary gives them in the event of a job loss. Our new feature, appropriately titled “Safeguard” means if you’re ever fired from your place of work, you’d be paid a percentage of your old salary for the first three months so you could plant your feet on solid ground. With this neat update, our users can protect their futures against job loss from life’s uncertainties in the best way possible. Never again will employees be left out to dry, as you will have a bridge and anchor as you navigate the labor markets. 

Our chief intent is to protect employees everywhere. This is how we build a safety net in an unpredictable world- by tasking ourselves to plan for tomorrow. No one should have to start from scratch because they have lost their job. In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”, American psychologist Abraham Maslow posited that individuals (and by inference a society) will not be able to focus on altruistic goals until their basic needs such as food, shelter, and safety have been met. We agree, and this is a bold step in that direction.

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