All sorts of new ratios but no new solutions
Over the years we have accumulated a rather impressive selection of letters and opinions directed to us as a publishing institution, and not intended, as most of the correspondence we receive, for publication. In this varied selection are included an assortment of congratulatory letters, analytical pieces, extracts from reports, requests for funding, many invitations to act as media partner to a host of events, and of course, the odd demand for payment, regardless of the previous existence of an invoice or not.
But the most prized item in my collection is a haughty letter from the former chief statistician, directed to us in 2010 after I dared criticise the assumptions and results of the 2008 Namibia Labour Force Survey.
At that time, I pointed out the weaknesses in the sampling methodology, the lack of corrective statistical application, and the obvious observable departure from reality. In short, I said the survey was not worth the paper it was printed on. This created somewhat of an uproar and I became the target.
Meanwhile, over the past two years, this survey has been discredited so fundamentally, I have begun to wonder why any rational individual still wastes time even taking note of its results. Eventually all this to and fro came to a head with the realisation, the National Planning Commission needs a new director as well as a new statistics division. I am glad to say that state of affairs has been remedied on both counts, so now we only need the new entity to provide us with concise, reliable and up to date statistics.
But lately, from other sources, I have noted two new concepts popping up in a small number of reports. The first is the so-called Dependency Ratio and the second is referred to as the Low Achievement Trap. I have to admit, until recently I have been ignorant about these concepts.
From the way the first concept is used, I gather it is a rather straightforward calculation. If the number of employed people is known and the total number of residents is known for any sample population, I assume the Dependency Ratio is the relationship between the two, expressed in any format chosen by the analyst. So, if we are 2.1 million Namibians and only 333453 of us are meaningfully employed, it means for every working individual, somehow there are 6.3 dependants for every person with a regular, steady income. It also means that 1.7 million Namibians are not working, either because they are unemployed, or because these individuals fall in a category that is not considered for employment due to demographics, i.e. age and gender considerations. It also means that only 13.7% of the entire population generates the income of which the whole country must live. Thus, as a percentage of the population, the not-employed make up around 86%. And I suppose this is where the Dependency Ratio comes from.
But as has been shown in a very small number of more reliable studies, the data on which we base all these quasi-statistical manipulations, is probably not dependable, turning everything that follows in its wake into somewhat of an academic farce. (Two years ago I likened it to the output of the Zimbabwe Statistics Office that, despite all evidence to the contrary slapping one in the face, they continued to calculate meaningless inflation statistics right up to the point where Bobbels decided it costs him more to print money, than the value of the favours he thought he could buy with it.)
Then there is the low achievement trap. I have to admit, this weird concoction of a social sciences hypothesis, first confounded me. I asked myself why any person in his right mind, may want to find himself in a so-called low achievement trap, if the most obvious and foremost solution, is to set higher standards (for oneself). My lack of knowledge forced me to do some reading on the topic.
After some mental enlightenment, reluctantly I have to state there really does exist a social condition called a Low Achievement Trap although I still fail to fathom the origins or implications of this nefarious piece of pseudo science. It smacks all too much of another excuse of not reaching development targets, or of the pervasive inability of our education system to produce a new generation of invigorated, empowered, analytical minds.
If from all these observations, there is one positive aspect I have encountered, it was the delightful conclusion that, after the 2008 labour force survey, Namibia came out as the most productive political entity in the entire world. Let me quote from a recent report that tried to bring some sanity to the spaghetti statistics:
“Based on the 2008 NLFS employment figure, Namibia’s output per worker (labour productivity) exceeds all country blocks, such as Asia, North Africa, Sub-Sahara Africa and the World combined.” Now doesn’t that give one hope for the future.