There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics
–Samuel Clements (Mark Twain)
who attributed the quote to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881).
In our luxury hi-tech offices located above the Transylvania Restaurant and Take-away, many of us here at the Post often while away the afternoons entertaining the notion of what it would be like to get a haircut and get a real job.
So the news that the government had created 71,000 new jobs was greeted with breathless excitement.
The staff tore themselves away from the usual amusement of watching suburban mums attempting to park huge 4WD’s, while keeping our fingers on the speed dial to the local panel beater, and rushed to boot up the cut price Taiwanese lap-tops and log on to Seek.
Imagine our disappointment when nothing new came up on the search engine. Where were the new jobs?
We decided to ask the Post’s statistics guru, Con Trapositive. “There aren’t any” he told us between mouthfuls of a Gypsy Slice. “It’s a typical ABS stuff-up. What happens is; they survey about 29,000 homes every month. About one eighth of these; 3,600, leave the survey and another 3,600 are brought in.”
“Sometimes, employment conditions in the new intake are very different from those of the outgoing” he said as he began shoveling a large portion of Roast Duck and Red Cabbage into his gob.
“When that happens, the official employment numbers jump – or fall accordingly even if employment itself hasn’t changed. In this case, it’s obvious that those rotated in February were very different to those rotated out which resulted in a surge in the figures.”
“No doubt that some bright spark in the ABS then multiplied the result by a number based on their guess of the population.” Wiping his grease stained fingers on the front of his Bri-Nylon shirt, he surveyed the disappointed faces around him.
“Look, you’d have to be a mug to believe any employment figures issued in the last few years. The fact is, these figures are juggled to make the incumbent government look good and to give the impression that they are moving forward while actually standing stock still.”
“Don’t forget”, he added with a sly grin “that anyone who does an hours work a week is counted as being employed.”
“Why don’t you lot give up this blogging and buy into a Job Network System? The government will subsidize you to set it up and you don’t really have to find the clients work, just make sure they comply to the Newstart rules of looking for jobs that don’t exist, and then cop a good backhander for kicking them off the dole when they can’t find ’em. It’s all the go among overseas corporations at the moment.”
“71,000 new jobs? Now you see ’em, now you don’t.” He laughed uproariously, giving us a blast of breath that would peel the paint off a battleship, and waddled out into the afternoon while we went back to the speed dial.
Source: Martin, Peter & Asher Moses; ‘PM’s jobs record that never was’ The Age, 15th March 2013, p.6.