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UK: Statistics on foreign workers
September 12 2014 


The prime minister David Cameron has been caught telling porkies.

According to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), in an article for theDaily Telegraph earlier this year, David Cameron ‘significantly misrepresented’ statistics about the number of British jobs going to foreign workers.

In an op-ed for the paper on 29 July, the PM claimed that ‘while most new jobs used to go to foreign workers, in the past year more than three quarters have gone to British workers’.

However a complaint in relation to the article was made to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) by Jonathan Portes, directer of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, on the basis that the PM’s claim was inaccurate – a claim which was upheld today by the PCC.

Portes had alleged that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures from which the PM’s claim was drawn related to net changes in employment rather than ‘new jobs’. This, as Portes pointed out, is because the net change in the number of people *in* employment is not the same as the number of people who *move into* employment – the former is the difference in the movement of people in and out of employment.

Portes also pointed out – and was backed by the chair of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) – that the number of people in employment and the number of jobs in the economy are not the same thing. This is because a person can have more than one job at a time.

And Portes cited a study by the London School of Economics’ Centre of Economic Performance (CEP) showing that migrants have never accounted for the majority of new jobs.

Despite initially defending the claim, saying that the public would understand an increase in employment as ‘jobs’, the Telegraph backed down after Portes supplied a copy of his correspondence with the UKSA to the PCC. In response the newspaper offered to clarify the story with wording which stated:

“[ONS] data which the prime minister used for his analysis refer only to net changes in the number of foreign and British people in employment; it is not possible on this basis to determine the number of ‘new jobs.’”

But soon after the changes were made, the story was withdrawn by the Telegraphafter a complaint was made about the amended piece by Number 10. The newspaper then offered to publish a more specific correction in its corrections column, but this was rejected by Portes, who said that following the intervention from Number 10 the PCC should issue a ruling on the matter ‘to assist future discussion on the subject’.

In its final decision published today, the PCC ruled in Portes’ favour, saying:

‘the statistics to which the prime minister referred had been significantly misrepresented: there was a significant distinction between the numbers of people in employment and the allocation of new jobs.’

The PCC also concluded that the Telegraph had ‘failed to take care not to publish misleading information in breach of Clause 1 (i) of the [Editor’s] Code.’

Originally published by Left Foot Forward

You can read the full PCC report here.

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