LETTER: Numbers don’t lie

Dear Editor:

Data-based decision making should guide our government’s actions and our people’s voting. Such a perspective is slowly emerging and a democracy benefits from a vigilant media making certain that performance is the focus.

For example, considerable attention is focused on employment and the percentage of citizens experiencing unemployment. This data provides some indication of the economic progress of our country and the financial well-being of our people.

This statistic served our purposes for many decades and our media dutifully reported it each month. Economic policy was ill-fated if government was not addressing the needs of people searching for work and, as a caring culture, we provided benefits to address their basic needs.

Our devotion to this statistic is now flawed because a companion piece of data is seldom reported. Canada’s rate of unemployment in Dec. 2016 was 6.9 per cent which, by itself, is problematic, but is not accompanied with another statistic demonstrating the depth of our problem.

Our more serious problem is the percentage of men aged 25 to 54 who are withdrawing from the labour force and not categorized as unemployed. This group is now around nine per cent and is known by the term, NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). In other words, unemployment of 6.9 per cent is false information.

Narrowing the focus to youth unemployment under 25 years of age provides a more revealing description. In Canada, in 2014, male unemployment was 14.8 per cent, which was 2.8 per cent higher than females. The disparity was even larger in 2015 when male unemployment was 15.1 per cent compared with female unemployment at 10.9 per cent. For 2016, 14.3 per cent males were unemployed compared with 11.5 per cent females.

Governments must accept accountability for reporting the comprehensive picture rather than cherry-picking the one with the most favourable number. Media must exercise their responsibility for reporting a more complete picture surrounding an issue of such importance to our country’s well-being.

Jim Dueck