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Release of 2021 fourth-quarter jobless data delayed bec...

Business Maverick

LABOUR FORCE SURVEY

Release of 2021 fourth-quarter jobless data delayed because of low response level — Stats SA

(Photo: Gallo Images / Laird Forbes)

The conspiracy-minded out there might jump to conclusions and suspect an attempt to massage the numbers. To be clear, there is absolutely no evidence that this is the case.

The release of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the last three months of 2021, scheduled for release on Tuesday at 11.30am, has been delayed pending “quality checks”, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said. 

The problem, according to the agency, lies with the low response rate from surveyed households. The release includes the closely watched unemployment rate, which hit a record 34.9% in the third quarter of last year. 

Stats SA said in a notice on its website that the data release “has been postponed due to quality checks that need to be conducted before the results can be published. 

“Stats SA acknowledges the importance of this dataset and it is for this reason that we are taking necessary measures to ensure that the data that we release meets international standards. The results will be published in March and the date will be communicated once the release date has been finalised.” 

Business Maverick asked Stats SA if it could elaborate on its concerns and the need for “quality checks”. 

Malerato Mosiane, the chief director of Labour Statistics at Stats SA, replied that concerns stemmed from the low response level from surveyed households. 

“We are having a low response rate with fewer people responding. So we are just checking if the sample is still representative enough to publish with confidence,” she said. “Some of the estimates are not making sense.”

There is nothing wrong with a statistical agency ensuring that its data are as accurate as possible. And in fairness to the agency, recent data delays have not been its fault, with the blame falling on government departments such as the shambolic Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. 

The conspiracy-minded out there might jump to conclusions and suspect an attempt to massage the numbers. To be clear, there is absolutely no evidence that this is the case. The reason provided for the delay is plausible even if the reasons behind the low response rate are unclear. And there is really no way to massage the grim reality of the South African economy’s failure to create jobs. 

Getting the numbers right — or at least as accurate as possible, as this is an exercise that can never be watertight — is clearly crucial, given the gravity of South Africa’s unemployment crisis. The unemployment rate is not only a measurement of the economy’s performance, but a key indicator of social misery.

Hunger, poverty, indignity and inequality are its by-products, sowing the seeds for social unrest, xenophobia and dangerously populist politics. As my colleague Ray Mahlaka has written, this underscores the urgent need for economic reforms. 

South Africa now has to wait until March to see the latest take on the scale of the crisis. Hopefully, the sample size will provide at least a reasonably accurate assessment of the situation. DM/BM

At 6.30pm on Wednesday, 23 February 2022, Business Maverick’s Tim Cohen and Ray Mahlaka, together with the CEO of Pan-African Investment & Research Services Dr Iraj Abedian, will unpack the key points from Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s Budget Speech and answer your questions. Register here to join the discussion: https://event.webinarjam.com/register/594/4v443uxym 

 

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