Statisticians are right to publish and be damned

By Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migration Watch UK
The Times 12 February 2009

For: Sir Andrew Green, Chairman, Migration Watch UK
Against: Keith Vaz MP

Statisticians can cause quite a stir just by being honest. Yesterday the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the latest employment figures. They show that in the past 12 months the employment of British workers has fallen by about 250,000 while the number of foreign workers has gone up by about 200,000.

Does this show that foreigners are taking “British” jobs and, if so, was the ONS right to publish the analysis on the very day that it also published figures showing unemployment within an ace of two million? Of course it was right. Nothing is worse than suspicion – harboured (according to polls) by 80 per cent of the population – that the Government is less than truthful about immigration.

Yesterday’s publication is a success for the new watchdog, the UK Statistics Authority, which is determined that government statisticians should tell it as it is, whatever the topic, and let the debate take place. Until recently these labour force numbers would have been buried in obscure tables perused only by specialists. But now we have the facts before us and they do indeed show what they appear to show.

It is important to say that there is not a fixed number of jobs in any economy. When more people come they create more demand and, therefore, more jobs.

There is also an important distinction between non-UK-born and non-UK nationals. Economic migrants who have become British citizens are, of course, in the former category. The Government uses this to its advantage, with the Prime Minister saying that non-UK nationals were 8 per cent of the workforce, which sounds better than the 13 per cent who are not UK-born. In the present case both measures show a decline in British employment and a slightly smaller increase in foreign employment.

© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green

The Times

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