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Statistics Mauritius Board maintains indefensible unemployment stats


At long last the Board of Statistics Mauritius, feeling so totally discredited for its use of an Alice in Wonderland definition for who exactly is “in employment”, has had to publish a Communiqué (dated 7 June, L’Express 8 June 2017).

 Statistics Mauritius counts you as “in employment” if you work for one hour a week. Can you believe it? And then they come and justify it in a paid Communiqué, not on any logical grounds, but by saying someone else uses this method. In other words, we in Statistics Mauritius do a stupid thing because someone else does it. Note that they do not publicly disclose the definition that is causing them to be a laughing stock! Better keep it hidden.

 What does the Statistics Board say in its Communiqué? “Pa mwa sa. Li sa.” It’s not me, it’s the ILO (International Labour Organization). We in LALIT say, “Come and defend the definition that you, yourself, use here in Mauritius! You know Mauritian reality.” Social statistics are supposed to help us understand social reality, not hinder us. Is someone who works two hours a week in exchange for a pound of rice in “employment”, then? Come on!

 The problem with the ILO definition is multiple:

 1  The ILO, set up in 1919, needed “employment” figures relevant for the rate at which peasants were entering the labour market, in massive countries like India, Nigeria, China, Indonesia. One hour a week earning hard cash was a step out of peasant life into the world of wage labour. Today, this definition is no longer anything more than absurd.

2  The ILO has two figures that cover what ordinary humans call “unemployment” or “somaz”, figures that Statistics Mauritius should always cite together, if they do not want to live in Alice in Wonderland, where they go on flattering those in power by speaking lies to them. One figure the ILO calls “unemployment” (working less than one hour a week) and the other they call “economically inactive” people, people who have not gone out and looked for a job in the past four weeks. These latter in Mauritius, according to MCB Focus of February 2016, which has an estimate similar to what LALIT found in a mini-survey of 6 areas, represent a good 40% of the people. These people include a good number who have stopped looking for work because they are sick and tired of not getting work. But they are most definitely unemployed. Donald Trump won the Democratic bastion votes in the Rust Belt because of the complacency this kind of false statistic engenders in an area of massive factory closures; he challenged these figures head-on, if with another false statistic of his own.

3  The ILO excludes people following courses and thus not actually looking for work. We know that the Government has masked unemployment by endless courses – for young people and women, in particular. You can’t get work, so you follow a course, then you slip out of the unemployment figures!

4  As jobs dry up (mainly through technical innovation, but also through the greed of capital, in particular finance capital that “steals” all increases from productivity increases), working class people, in order to survive, are forced to sign up for “invalidity” pensions or SRM (Social Register of Mauritius); anyone with a slight limp, asthma, epilepsy, back pain, depression, or just children to feed, soon comes off the unemployment statistics because he or she has had to use this tactic in order to feed a family.

5  If one is “employed” for working or selling something like “bred susu” for “one hour” in a week, then old-age pensioners, unless completely bed-bound are probably often being counted in the figures as “employed”.  This would further falsify them.

6   The ILO has always been at least two-thirds anti-worker. It is time the unions publicly recognized this. It is tripartite, meaning the Bosses’ Organizations, the bourgeois State and the Biggest union (worldwide the union concerned is often either mildly or wildly pro-capitalist), as well as being controlled, in the final analysis, by the large imperialist economies.

 All this to say that the methodology used by Statistics Mauritius is totally unacceptable. It is a rubbish figure. It is dishonest. It is obsequious to power. And the fault lies with a definition that is erroneous through its complacency.

 Lindsey Collen, for LALIT, 8 June, 2017