We all know there will be people who will never work. They’re allergic to work. So we’re not including those in the statistics. But everybody who wants a job will have a job in the next couple of years.’
There were a lot of criticisms of the Finance Minister’s comments, rightly describing them as a slur on people who cannot find a job. What I also find illuminating is the innovative approach to statistical representation.
Imagine saying ‘We all know people who are allergic to obeying the law. So we’re not including those in the statistics.’ Or ‘We all know people who are allergic to paying taxes. So we’re not including those in the statistics.’ See – we just eliminated crime and tax evasion. There’s no end of progress we can make on the outstanding issues of the day if we just employ the ‘Noonan Manoeuvre.’
But there are some statistics that the Minister is not including as well – statistics that his own government gathers and sends on to the EU. Like this one:
- There are 20 unemployed for every job vacancy.
This comes from the Eurostat Vacancy Rate as reported by the Nevin Economic Research Institute. We’re not as bad as Greece where there are 74.3 unemployed for every job vacancy but we have a long ways to before we reach Belgium (5) never mind Germany (2.1).
To put that 20:1 ratio in perspective, imagine someone dropping five €10 notes from the roof of a building on to 100 people in the street. There’s a mad scramble and eventually five people walk away with the notes. But 95 people don’t. What do we say about those empty-handed 95? They’re allergic to €10 notes? The mind reels.
But the Minister’s capacity to not include statistics does not end there. Take this one.
There are, according to the last Quarterly National Household Survey, 2.153 million people in the labour force. There are 1.939 million in work. When you subtract those at work from the labour force you come up with 213,000. That’s the number of unemployed. The number of unemployed doesn’t determine the number of jobs in the market. There are still only so many jobs to go around for a larger number of people looking for them (there are niche exceptions where an employer has a vacancy but can’t find someone with the matching skills necessary – a phenomenon in the ICT sector and foreign language skills; maybe we should teach all the unemployed Dutch?).
Of course, there are ways to manipulate this equation which, also, rarely gets included.