Friday, July 1, 2016

Government Continues Fudging Statistics To Hide Failure

In many countries around the world, statistics about things like the rates of unemployment or crime are used by the government of the day to demonstrate changes in those areas. In New Zealand, by contrast, changes in statistics (as in, changes in what the statistics actually represent) are used instead to obscure a lack of improvement in same.

I was absolutely gobsmacked last night to read a piece over on Radio New Zealand which suggested that our government had massively improved unemployment figures by simply "refining" the definition for who counts as unemployed. Not merely, you understand, because it had happened (revisions in the collection of statistical data are an unavoidable consequence of a pursuit of accuracy), but also because of the absolute brazenness of the subterfuge being employed to do so.

In 21st century New Zealand - theoretically a hub of technological innovation and social media uptake, which is on-track to have something like 90% of the population using smartphones, and around seven internet-capable devices per person by the end of the decade - we are being told that looking for jobs online apparently doesn't count as "actively seeking work".

And therefore, anyone who does their jobhunting in cyberspace rather than spending money on a print-copy newspaper or going cap-in-hand to all the local non-hiring shops ... is not actually unemployed.

That's madness. Twelve thousand people worth of madness, in fact, who've been artificially shaved off the unemployment figures in order to allow the Government of the day to boast about the "lowest unemployment figures in 7 years". Quite why unemployment rates almost equivalent to those at the height of the Great Recession global financial crisis are something to be lauded rather lambasted as not working hard enough (the government, that is - not the people down at WINZ in a client capacity) is beyond me.

But the fact remains that it's difficult to perceive how consciously and deliberately excluding the main route by which many New Zealanders search for - and find - new employment from the legitimacy of official recognition is actually supposed to help anyone except National.

Evidently it has been decided from On High that it's easier to change the definition of unemployment rather than actually putting in the hard work of helping to foster and create jobs for people.

And while it would be bad enough if the Government were merely monkeying around with unemployment statistics ... recent questions asked in Parliament by NZ First Social Development & Associate Police Spokesperson Darroch Ball have shone a light upon the fact that Police Minister Judith Collins is once again up to her old tricks doing exactly the same thing with crime statistics.

Collins, as you may remember, presided as Police Minister over what appears to have been something of a culture of illegally downgrading and failing to properly record offending (particularly within Collins' own electorate, which I'm sure is just a coincidence) so that the Government would be able to falsely claim that they'd made a serious impact on crime going into an election year. It's perhaps rather telling that the specific category of offending they were caught out over - making 700 burglaries in and around the Papakura Electorate disappear - is also the same area which large-scale public outcry has recently forced both policemen and politicians to highlight.

The evasive pattern of non-answering to Ball's questions in the House on this issue earlier in the week suggests that Collins and National know they're weak on this issue. The fact that National also presided over a fundamental change to the way we record crime data in New Zealand - which means we no longer know how many crimes are committed, nor what the resolution rate for these complaints is - further serves to confirms this.

At the outset of this piece, I claimed that many countries around the world legitimately used statistics in order to observe and demonstrate changes in their public affairs. But in a certain sort of country, publicly available and politically useful statistics are instead treated as mere propaganda tools, or somewhat inelegant poetry for the campaign trail.

We have a few choice words which we tend to reserve for polities of this nature. "Corrupt", "Orwellian", and "Tinpot" spring instantly to mind.

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine for themselves whether the actions of the National Party over a protracted period of time bring New Zealand down to that lofty, low standard.

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