Treasury breached statistics code with female employment figures, says TUC

By agency reporter
November 11, 2014

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has written to the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Andrew Dilnot, asking him to investigate whether the Treasury (HMT) breached the Code of Practice for Official Statistics in a press release on female employment.

The HMT announcement from 23 October 2014 – used to promote a series of workplace visits by the Chancellor – claims that female employment has increased in every sector of the economy under the current government. It further claims that this was in contrast to the previous government, under which increases were concentrated in the services sector. No data were presented to support these assertions.

In a press release given to journalists, the claims were reinforced by a data graphic giving the visual impression that over the last four years the contributions of agriculture and mining, manufacturing and construction to female employment growth have been greater than that of services.

However, the graphic did not adjust for the size of each sector. Had it done so, it would have shown that almost four in every five jobs that account for female employment growth under the current government are in the services sector.

Furthermore, using the same data, more than a third (35 per cent) of all job creation has been in education, health and social work (more than in agriculture, mining, manufacturing and construction combined), suggesting that despite ongoing cuts, public service occupations remain strong drivers of female employment growth.

The TUC argues that HMT breached the code of practice by failing to provide information on how the analysis for their claims was undertaken, or where it could be publicly accessed.

Furthermore, the TUC believes there was a lack of transparency because graphics that were seemingly designed to reinforce the misleading impression were included only in a version of the release sent privately to journalists and not in the announcement published on the HMT website.

Following enquiries to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the TUC also discovered that HMT did not use the best source of data available for this type of analysis. The press release used data from the Labour Force Survey, but ONS advises that the most reliable data is from the Workforce Jobs series. Under this series, women’s employment growth in manufacturing has actually fallen.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Chancellor used the wrong statistics, presented them badly and made a case that doesn’t survive scrutiny. It’s a clear breach of the rules that protect the public from political spin disguised as official figures.

“After the Treasury’s smoke and mirrors job on welfare spending, a worrying pattern is emerging of taxpayers footing the bill for Conservative propaganda.”

* - The full version of the HMT release distributed to journalists can be found at http://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/HM%20Treasury%20Analysis%20on%...

* - The TUC’s letter to Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, can be found at http://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Frances%20O%27Grady%20to%20And...

[Ekk/4]

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