The Truth about UK Unemployment Figures
Doctoring data is not a new concept in the world of politics. Many of those in power, whether they are political parties, or individuals have chosen to ‘tweak’ statistical data in their own favour as a means to gaining public support and approval. In the midst of crumbling high streets, run down warehouses and shrinking public services, there is a strangely contradictory phenomenon emerging – the government’s employment figures. Recent employment figures seem to show that employment has actually fallen in the past months. But is this what is really happening? Or has the coalition government simply put a spin on the data to make it look prettier than it really is?
The Office for National Statistics reported recently that not only has unemployment fallen by a substantial number, but that employment is in fact currently at an all-time high. The numbers cannot lie but what can happen is that they may actually represent a different reality than the one that is being portrayed.
For one, the figures simply put a blanket number on employment but do not take into account the changing demographic based on age and longevity. People are continuing to work for longer today than ever before. So the relative rate of employment for everybody within the working age range has fallen as opposed to gone up. Also, unemployment in general may seem to have fallen but youth unemployment has risen and wages have fallen.
Do the statistics take into account the fact that many of those counted as employed are in fact in part time employment, or flexible employment? As jobs become scarce and many big companies opt for ‘flexible working practices’ requiring very few hours of actual work, the number of people in part time employment has shot up through the roof. This means that with respect to work force verses gainful work opportunities, we still have a huge amount of spare work force with no work to speak of.
Research has shown that often those in part time or few hours weekly work feel as depressed or the same levels of dissatisfaction as the unemployed. But do employment statistics take factors such as these into account? They don’t. Often duplicity lies not in the numbers themselves but the way the statistics are presented and represented.
The government has no doubt used these positive figures to justify and defend their strategy. Another claim made by the government is that more than a million jobs have been created within the private sector. This has often been used as a defence against the tide of job losses being experienced within the public sector. But again, it’s important to understand how these numbers have been arrived at. It is also important to verify whether all these supposed new jobs are actually new. As privatisation of various public services charges on – are existing jobs merely touted as ‘new’ private sector jobs?
These are some of the factors that must be investigated and understood before jumping to the conclusion that recent employment figures are in fact a vindication of the government’s broader strategy of austerity and privatisation.