The statistics in the latest Household Labour Force Survey show that while unemployment had dropped to 5.8 per cent, underemployment had risen by 21,200 in two years.
Statistics New Zealand began measuring underemployment in 2013, defining it as the “grey area” where people have a job but have similarities to unemployed people because they face a “partial lack of work”.
It is when a part-time worker is willing and available to work more hours than they usually do. The statistics are limited to part-time workers.
“We know have 103,000 underemployed, but Government treats them as employed for their figures,” said Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei.
“The Government is massaging their employment figures in order for them to look like they’re doing way better, when in fact these are people looking for more work and many of them are unpaid.”
That is a stupid and false thing to say.
Stats NZ does the classifications. Is Turei accusing the public servants who work at Stats of fraud by massaging the figures?
Or is she claiming that someone working 25 hours a week, but seeking 35 hours, should be classified as unemployed?
The definition of unemployed used by Stats NZ for the HLFS is the same definition used by every country in the OECD. It is someone not in work, who is seeking and available for work.
It is not the only important piece of data in the HLFS. The working age participation rate is important. The FT employment rate is important. The number of hours worked data is important. The underemployment rate is important. But that’s a very different thing to what Turei has done – claiming Stats NZ is committing fraud by massaging the data.