Guest Post: How urban myths develop

A guest post by :

An urban myth rapidly gaining momentum is that New Zealand women have been harder hit by Covid than men. The origin of this claim comes from the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) – the official source of the New Zealand’s unemployment rate. The latest result for the June quarter showed 11,000 fewer people employed than in March. (Oddly this breaks down to 1,000 fewer men and 9,000 fewer women. That’s not making sense. Obviously some rounding issues there.)

Kiwibank said they “didn’t quite believe the numbers” but despite this ran with a press release titled, “90% Of The Drop In Kiwi Employment Were Women.” Three days later KiwiBank economist Mary Jo Vergara said the figures should be taken with “a grain of salt” because the level of disruption during lockdown made it hard to conduct the survey.

Nevertheless a number of journalists began running with the alarmist headline. Michelle Duff wrote in an election ‘analysis’ piece for Stuff on August 22 that, “Government appears to have barely considered the fact women are the worst impacted” again quoting the 90% statistic. A few days later RNZ  reported, “The Detail looks at how the Covid 19 crisis has hit women hard, with latest employment figures showing 90 percent of those who lost their jobs in the three months from April to June were women.”

Much was also made of female underutilisation yet their rate compared to male stayed steady. That it is higher is nothing new.

Anyway tonight TV Three News reported the now run-of-the-mill ‘fact’ that women have been worse hit by Covid again quoting the HLFS data. There is no link as yet but readers will have heard the item I refer to.

The HLFS is a survey of 15,000 households and while it is usually a reliable method of collecting data, and consistent with other OECD country methodology, in this instance the responses were severely disrupted. Stats NZ itself says:

“COVID-19 resulted in data collection and measurement challenges for the June 2020 quarter. While data collection via face-to-face interviewing was suspended for the majority of the quarter, interviews for the HLFS continued to be carried out over the telephone. At the same time, lockdown affected many New Zealanders’ ability to look for work, impacting how they are represented in official labour market statistics.”

So where can we get accurate real-time relevant data?

From Ministry of Social Development benefit numbers: Jobseeker and Covid Income Relief Payment(CIRP) receipt.

The July annual increase uptake of Jobseeker Support was GREATER for males – 41.5 percent versus 35.3 percent for females.

It can be legitimately argued that females get locked out of Jobseeker receipt if they have a working partner.

But that did not apply to the CIRP for workers – both full and part-time – made redundant after March.

The June-July monthly increase uptake of CIRP was GREATER for males.

And 22% more males than females were receiving CIRP.

None of the MSM news reporters/outlets have bothered to check this data. Or, if they have, chose to ignore it.

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