Interrogating the unemployment figures

24 Oct

Do you really buy the current unemployment rates? I have long had doubts which began way back in Malcolm Fraser’s day when I had a friend working in the Australian Bureau of Statistics… I have raised the matter in several posts before:

There is a long rambling page on Henry Thornton’s site: What’s wrong with Australia’s monthly unemployment figures?

…The above and a host of other dodgy tricks in defining unemployment by nearly all countries make the comparison of unemployment rates between countries an impossible task. Another example is that Australia counts as being employed all those who work for an hour or more in the survey week. Countries such as Singapore, Germany and a host of others start at 15 hours before you are regarded as being employed!

Ironically the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations regards Aboriginals who work 15 hours per week plus on a Community Development Employment Program (an Indigenous variation of work-for-the- dole) are regarded by DEWR as ’employed’.

As Australia uses much the same definition of monthly unemployment as the U.K. I believe exactly the same process (dodgy unemployment figures) is occurring in Australia. Labour Market Schemes / Work for the Dole / White Papers which are based on false unemployment figures, are by their very nature, doomed to failure. Also if Governments continue deceiving the Australian people about the extent of the problem, we will never, as a nation, face up to the issue of mass unemployment.

Dr Peter Brain, a senior economist with the Australian National Institute of Economic and Industry Research said (‘Herald-Sun’, Melbourne, 26/8/01) that successive governments had “corrupted” ABS statistics and ”Government changes in policy since the late 1980s had corrupted the ABS unemployment statistics”…

Conservative economic commentator Des Moore had this to say on the real unemployment figures:

Mr. Des Moore, in commenting on the last AIRC national wage case said in ‘The Australian’, 13/6/05: “This approach (on wages) pushes the unemployed and the under-utilized to one side in preference to those already in employment. Yet Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows there are more than one million unemployed or under-utilized and another 800,000 who say they would like work if available. About two million mostly unskilled would like jobs but have had little chance of getting them under the commission’s regime”. He again repeated these figures in ‘The Business Age’, 28/6/06.

What’s wrong with the Australian monthly unemployment figures?

Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) figures when it closed and privatised in 1996, had two million unemployed registered, were once used as a reliable indication of unemployment. That is, of course, until they became embarrassingly high. They were jettisoned in the mid-1980s by Labor in favour of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) monthly figures from the ABS survey ‘Labour Force’ which, because of the questions asked by ABS survey staff, effectively do not include the hidden, the discouraged job seekers and additionally rule out large numbers of others unemployed.  They also do not include the 600,000 plus Australians forced to work fewer hours than they would like…

I am well aware that the ABS uses concepts and definitions recommended by the International Labor Organisation (ILO), one of the specialised agencies of the United Nations.  My point is that these ILO concepts and definitions of unemployment are, in essence, designed for political purposes and to provide governments (here and overseas) with the most flattering figure. They have nothing to do with reality…

The University of Newcastle’s Centre for Full Employment and Equity affords a number of interesting documents and access to a podcast from ABC Radio National Breakfast October 17 2007.

Just challenging the orthodox and too easily accepted view. What do you think? I urge you to do your own interrogation using some of the material mentioned here. I would be interested in further sources and views.

More to read

# Long Term Unemployment (PDF)
# Australian government source (PDF) on measures of unemployment and hidden unemployment (March 2007)

Attracted attention

This post was read by someone in the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations Oct 25 2007 9:04:01 am using IE6.

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1 Comment

Posted by on October 24, 2007 in Australia and Australian, Political



One response to “Interrogating the unemployment figures

  1. Jim Belshaw

    October 24, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Neil, this is a good post raising a very real point that is worthy of broader discussion.

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