A Walter Blackman Article – Q2 Unemployment Figures Released by the BSS
In an article written by Nation reporter Barry Alleyne in the Sunday Sun dated December 10, 2017 (on page 24), readers were given unemployment numbers compiled by the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS) using its continuous household survey for the period April – June 2017.
From the outset, let me state that I have no quarrel with the BSS. The department has been using its continuous household survey to produce national unemployment statistics for some time now. What I have a difficulty with is that, whereas one set of political supporters was quite happy to accept statistics produced by the BSS, and joyfully quote them when “their regime” was in power, the same set of supporters are now crying foul and questioning the credibility of the BSS-produced data now that their political leaders are on the opposition benches. In the same vein, I have no respect for those who were bellyaching ten years ago about how high unemployment in Barbados was, but who would now be gleefully prepared to accept that Barbados is experiencing full employment, even though there is no evidence to suggest that any large scale hiring has taken place.
The objective of this article is to sift through the data presented in Mr. Alleyne’s article, present the salient information in a manner that the reader can easily understand, and let the reader reach his/her own conclusions based on the facts.
The first step is to present the basic important economic data that the survey carried out by the BSS has produced:
- Number of Barbadians of working age who are not employed = 91,900
- Number of Barbadians of working age who are employed = 128,800
- Number of Barbadians eligible to participate in the Labour Force = 220,700
Out of these basic economic data, to my mind, the one statistic deserving most attention is the 91,900 unemployed Barbadians. This number produces a “raw” unemployment rate of 41.6%.
Since the most important natural resource the country of Barbados possesses is its human resource, then our small island state is constantly experiencing massive opportunity costs from the under-utilization of its people. At the same time, our decision makers consistently find ways and reasons to employ foreigners! This approach simply does not make any sense.
If we do not aggressively conceptualize and pursue policies aimed at employing our young people, how will we be able to repay over $10 billion of national debt? Who will pay the NIS contributions to support our top-heavy aged population? Who will prevent the social backlash that inevitably results when the dreams and aspirations of too many of our young people are ignored or shattered?
High unemployment is one of the biggest factors that threaten the economic security and well-being of Barbados. Out of the many political parties which will be seeking our collective votes in the 2018 General Elections, and with these elections mere months away, a very important and fundamental question emerges: Which political party has so far outlined a clear credible plan to create jobs for Barbadians?
It is a worldwide practice for agencies charged with the responsibility of deriving national unemployment statistics to adjust the basic economic data in order to produce the labour force participation rate, and the “official” unemployment rate. This is achieved by making an assumption about the amount of people actively looking for work.
In Barbados, for the 2nd quarter of 2017, it has been assumed that 75,300 Barbadians have no interest in looking for, or finding work.
Therefore, using this assumption, the basic economic data have been adjusted by the BSS to read as follows:
Barbadians actively looking for work, who are not employed = 16,600
Number of Barbadians of working age, who are employed = 128,800
Total population working, or actively looking for work = 145,400
Unemployment Rate = 11.4% (i.e. 16,600/145,400)
This is the rate that is splashed all over the newspapers and recorded as the “official” unemployment rate of a country. The “raw” unemployment rate, although it gives a meaningful insight into the under-utilization of the human resource of a country, is never mentioned or highlighted.
Labour force participation rate = 65.9% (i.e. 145,400/220,700)
As to be expected, the unemployment rate of 11.4%, and the labour force participation rate of 65.9% are mentioned on page 24 of the December 10th, 2017 edition of the Sunday Sun newspaper.