Unemployment statistics rebased
“Note, we are not saying that we have reduced unemployment from 51 % to 27 %. We have simply recognized that 51 % could not have been right. Therefore right now I am not so sure whether we have reduced it or we haven’t. It could have been 27 % then already.” said Tom Alweendo, Director General of the National Planning Commission, at a recent interview where the methodology on gathering and presenting data were discussed. Speaking to the Economist, Mr Alweendo explained that it would be hard to measure the true trend in unemployment at the moment (based on past data) but that the most recent 2012 labour force survey probably provides the best picture of the current unemployment rate.
The Namibia Labour Force survey, which was previously conducted by the Ministry of Labour is now conducted by the National Statistics Agency with the hope that the previous miscalculations can be avoided. “The survey will also not be conducted every four years but rather on a yearly basis. This will give a better indication of the current labour market statistics on a more regular basis. Hopefully in the future we can have the data on a quarterly basis.”
“In the 2008 survey it is quite possible that some of the standards were not adhered to strictly that may have lead to the big debacle. Additionally the contracted labourers were not sufficiently competent to carry out the survey in terms of techniques of asking the questions.” These concerns were further echoed in a recent publication by the Ministry of Finance. Their quarterly economic update states that, “Dr John Steytler, Statistician General of the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA), has also voiced concerns over the reliability of the 2008 NLFS results, noting that the previous survey had a high sampling error and suggesting that the survey’s coverage of labour force variables was not detailed enough.”
The question of methodology should be tackled with tact as the Labour Force Survey complies with standards that are set in place by the International Monetary Fund. The standards and criteria for conducting the survey are clearly defined but the manner in which it is carried out depends on the surveyor. “All we do know now is that from the 2012 survey, this should be our base for comparing the unemployment. The unfortunate thing is how our society may have become cynical that they are happy with such high unemployment rates without being critical of the results. How could one have an unemployment rate of 37% in 2004 and suddenly have 51% unemployment in 2008 but nothing catastrophic happened in the Namibian economy? The economy actually grew.”concluded Alweendo.