Get the Jobless Rate Right

Press Release April 2003

"Get the jobless rate right: fudged figures are no basis for sound policy" The Age, 23/1/01

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions

Please note that I am also happy to come on your program in order to elaborate.

The articles can be emailed, if required, for publication.

Other articles on unemployment (below) are available for your perusal and publication. Please contact me, if you want them.

(1) What's wrong with the monthly unemployment figures
(2) "What is to be done: A Plan To Reintroduce Full Employment in Australia" by Marcus L'Estrange
(3) "Working harder isn't working" by Marcus L'Estrange
(4) "What are the barriers to achieving full employment and can we rely on the Coalition or ALP politicians? By Marcus L'Estrange
(5) A summary of press statements
(6) Australia's Labour Force chart by Marcus L'Estrange
(7) "Educational Left": how it failed schools by Marcus L'Estrange
(8) Background Information on Marcus L'Estrange

I await your early response,

With the compliments of

Marcus L'Estrange Ph: (03) 8598 9595 M: 0405 767 490

F1/3 Woonsocket Court St. Kilda, Vic., 3182, Australia. Email:

What's wrong with the monthly unemployment figures or as Sir Humphrey Appleby of 'Yes Minister' fame would say:

"The language of government: Restructure the base from which the statistics are derived without drawing public attention to the fact'.

Translation: Fiddle the figures."

Author Phillip Knightly in his article "Goodbye to Great Britain" in "The Australian", 2/4/94, commenting on U.K. unemployment figures noted:

"Today, no-one is really certain of how many people are unemployed in Britain. If you believe the British government, then the figure is 2,787,600. But many experts accuse the government of underestimating unemployment or, worse, of fiddling the figures. It is certainly true that since 1979 there have been 29 changes to the way in which British unemployment figures are calculated, most of which have had the effect of reducing the number - "the biggest conjuring trick since Houdini" says Labour.

As Australia uses much the same definition of monthly unemployment as the U.K., I believe exactly the same process is occurring in Australia. Labour Market Schemes / White Paper's which are based on false unemployment figures, are by their nature, doomed to failure. Also if Government's continue deceiving the Australian people about the extent of the problem, we will never, as a nation, face up to issue of mass unemployment.

Dr Peter Brain, a senior economist with the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research said (Herald - Sun, 26/8/01) that successive governments had "corrupted" ABS statistics and "Government changes in policy since the late 1980's had corrupted the ABS unemployment statistics".

The Commonwealth Statistician, Mr Trewin, is quoted in The Age, 22/1/2001, as saying that the official measure of unemployment does not reflect the true jobless rate and added his weight to criticism of the existing definition by some politicians (e.g. Cheryl Kernot) and academics, who all have said it severely understated the true jobless rate and hid increasing underemployment'.

The reality is that if the monthly figures claim that 600,000 or 800,000 (6%-8%) are unemployed, that doesn't mean that they are unemployed, as they, you or I understand the word.

No. It means that 600,000 or 800,000 people, (or whatever the nonsensical Labor Force Australia figures claims), match the International Labour Organisation's (political) definition of unemployment". The monthly figures have nothing to do with economic or other reality. Commonwealth Parliamentary Library researcher Tony Kryger claims (The Age, 23/1/01) "that ILO labour force definitions are biased toward counting a person as employed rather than unemployed".

Community Services Minister Larry Anthony let the cat out of the bag when he said in "The Age", 28/10/2000: "Breaching obligations", that there were 1.3 million on unemployment benefits. To this figure we must add 300,000 unemployed partners who obtain the dole via their partner (usually male) and the 400,000 unemployed who cannot claim the dole because of the assets and means test: (Sydney Morning Herald, 7/3/1998).

All up 2 million and note we have 5-6 different dole payments.

The dole figures alone make a mockery of the monthly or Labour Force Australia's figures.

Very few commentators appear to be aware of the ABS annual survey of unemployment: "Person's not in the labor force", which quite clearly shows that there are at least two million unemployed. Most commentators have missed the point that the ABS carries out this survey because they have no faith in 'their' monthly survey: Labour Force Australia, which results from a political definition of unemployment /employment and which they have been forced to carry out. Sydney Morning Herald journalist Tom Ballard (25/2/99) notes:

"A million more jobless revealed": " The true state of Australia's jobs market was exposed yesterday with the release of figures showing 1.7 million want work but can't find it - almost a million more than the numbers officially recognized as unemployed".

Senator Amanda Vanstone, when she was the Employment Minister in 1996, noted that: "The National Institute of Labour Studies commissioned by DEETYA found that "the level of disguised unemployment had risen to historic highs under Labor, pushing the true jobless rate to between 15% and 22 %". Ian Henderson, economics editor, The Australian, 9/4/1998

"The Jobs crisis is now so acute that 2.5 million people are unable to find work. Yes, that figure is three times the usually cited number. No, it is not an exaggeration. And, just as certainly, policy makers have so far to acknowledge the full extent of the almost decade-long crisis. Only one- third of the total-around 800,000- show up in the monthly unemployment statistics".

What's wrong with the monthly figures?

Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) figures (when it closed, two million unemployed) levels were once used as a reliable indications of unemployment. That is, of course, until they became embarrassingly high. They were jettisoned in the mid-1980s by Labor in favor of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) monthly figures from the ABS survey Labor Force Australia which, because of the questions asked by ABS survey staff, effectively do not include the hidden, the discouraged job seekers and additionally rule out large numbers of others unemployed. They also do not include the 600,000 plus Australians forced to work fewer hours than they would like.

This is illustrated by the ABS monthly survey questions.

(1) If you have worked one hour for pay, profit, commission or payment in kind, during the survey / reference week, you are not counted as being unemployed. You are counted as being employed. You could be on the dole, work one hour as a casual, but not be counted as being unemployed. You could also work for one hour or more with or without pay in a family business or on a farm, and still not be counted as unemployed. (i.e. unpaid family helpers). "The person who works an hour a week has the same status in the employment statistics as one who works 40!" (The Bulletin, November 18, 1997).

If you are unemployed and have not:
(a) registered with Centrelink as a jobseeker,
(b) contacted an employment agency;
(c) contacted prospective employers;
(d) answered a newspaper advertisement for a job;
(e) checked Centrelink touch screens
(f) checked factory notice boards;
(g) advertised or tendering for work;
(h) contacted friends or relatives; You would not be regarded as having 'actually' or 'actively' looked for work.

This raises the question of how or whom one is supposed to apply for almost non-existent jobs. Officially (ABS) there are about 90,000 vacancies or about one job for about every 22 unemployed, nationwide at present.

(2) If you are not able to start work within the four weeks (i.e. being sick or lacking childcare, for example) after the survey, you are not counted as being unemployed. (Some 809,000 people (rounded figure) September 2000).

(3) If you have been stood down without pay because of bad weather or plant breakdown, on leave without pay for less than four weeks, on strike or locked out, on workers' compensation and expecting to be returning to their work, these categories of people are not counted as being unemployed.

(4) You must be ready to start work within a week of the survey. If not, you are not counted.

The official monthly unemployment ABS figures exclude all those (1.2 million) who do not meet the absurd "push polling" type definitions (1-4, and others) as outlined above.

Let's look at how the 2 million plus unemployed are made up:

'Official unemployed': 600,000 - 800,000. Then the following Australians are excluded from the monthly figures:
57,000: actively looking for work but not available to start work in the survey week.
119,500: discouraged workers
173,000: who wanted to work but lacked childcare.
94,000: short term (less than one month) health problems.
144,000: on short - term courses.
40,000: thought they had a job to go to.
62,000: other family reasons.
133,000: other reasons*.
Total: 809,000.

(*See Page 15: 'Person' s Not In The Labour Force' survey, for the complete list).