The first post of 2009 will be about a new immigration scare story in the Mail, from everyone's favourite statistic massaging scaremonger - James Slack. Nice to see the paper's starting 2009 as it means to go on. The story seems to be from this Saturday's edition.
'Whitehall is failing to count the 170,000 extra migrant workers in the UK' is the headline. My god, I think I'll have to start hiding behind the sofa. You know that in my last proper post that wasn't whingeing about being ill I said that the number of non-UK born workers in the UK was just under 4 million? Well, this staggering new load of uncounted foreigners stealing our jobs takes that just under 4 million figure and pushes it up to a staggering just under 4 million. Those Whitehall bastards. How dare they not count these extra people?
Here's what Slack tells us about the '170,000 extra migrant workers' and their counting:
Whitehall officials have not bothered to include in official totals temporary workers who flock to this country for jobs such as fruit picking or labouring.Sorry for such a long quote, but it shows quite clearly that the Mail is telling us that these 170,000 are not counted in the Labour Force Survey, and that 'Whitehall' has not bothered to include them in official totals. The implication is clearly that the LFS is the official total, and that the people who compile the LFS (the ONS) are not bothering to include these figures. This is confused with the 'not counting' and 'Whitehall' in the headline, to make it look as though the ONS have not counted these people, and left it up to the House of Commons Library to calculate that there are 170,000 extra migrants and added them to official estimates.
The independent House of Commons Library, which carries out research for MPs, said including these workers would add 170,000 to Government estimates.
The Commons library report said: 'There are two additional (but potentially overlapping) groups of workers not included in LFS estimates; those living in communal establishments, for which there is no estimate, and temporary foreign workers amounting to 170,000.
'In January to March 2008, the LFS estimated that there were 3,682,000 overseas- born individuals in employment - 12.5 per cent of all in employment.
If we add an extra 170,000 to the foreign worker total from the LFS, the proportion of all foreign workers increases to 13 per cent.'
But Slack has left out an important detail that did manage to make its way into the Telegraph version. 'Number of migrant workers underestimated' includes this quote from the original letter from the House of Commons Library to James Clappison, the MP who provided the figures for the papers to churn:
"Based on ONS experimental short term migration estimates it is estimated that the number of temporary foreign workers not covered by the LFS is approximately 170,000.So, these figures are counted by the exact same organisation that compiles the LFS, and clues as to why the figures arent included in that survey are in the words 'experimental', and 'short term migration estimates'.
The Labour Force Survey is, as the title suggests, a 'survey'. That means that a sample of the population is surveyed and its answers are extrpolated to estimate national totals. If there are experimental figures from another study, based on short term migration estimates, then they're not part of the survey. They are being counted by the same people, and Slack's continual mentioning of the 'independent' House of Commons Library without letting on about where the HCL got its figures is clearly intended to obscure that fact.
The figures for estimating the number of short term migrants are experimental because they're new. The ONS are still working out the best way to estimate the figures - not because they just never bothered to before, but because the number of people involved in coming to the UK for temporary work has expanded in recent years. The first lot, covering mid 2004 and mid 2005 were published in October 2007 and updated in May 2008.
In any case, here's a supplementary paper from last March's Economic and Labour Market Review (produced by the ONS), comparing the two main sources for estimating numbers in the labour market which adds various figures not included in the LFS to the total. So there are official figures that include the experimental figures. Surprise surprise, it includes a figure for short-term migrant workers. It also includes a figure for Armed Services personnel not living in private accommodation. The figure is exactly the same as the one for temporary migrants. Slack -if you're reading this, I expect a scare story some time soon abour how the government isn't bothering to count UK-born workers.
This is a non-story spun into a scandal. I'd bet good money that the House of Commons Library included several caveats about the 170,000 short-term migrant workers and adding them to the LFS total and that these have been left out of the selective quotes in both the Telegraph and Mail coverage. The Mail is, of course, the most selective with what it quotes. That's most likely because James Slack was straining to create the false impression that they have been calculated separately from 'Whitehall' by the House of Commons Library rather than by the same body that calculates the LFS. He has form in this area, trumpeting figures from the 'independent' HCL without mentioning that they actually originate from official government sources anyway. I couldn't say whether this is deliberate or accidental, but neither reason would make the result what you'd expect from a Home Affairs Editor of a national newspaper. Unless you were talking about the Daily Mail, of course.*
Happy New Year, Slacky!
*Or the Express. Or the Sun. Or the Star. Or maybe the Telegraph.