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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/journal/2007...

by Fanny Doumayrou

Research Workers Speak Out Against the Manipulation of Unemployment Figures

Translated Wednesday 9 May 2007, by Emma Paulay

The DARES (1) statisticians were on strike yesterday (26 April), supported by the researchers who have written an open letter to the Minister for Employment.

The DARES statisticians have ironically renamed the employment ministry, for which they work, “the ministry of decrease in unemployment figures”. Yesterday the DARES statisticians of Jean-Louis Borloo’s research organism were on strike to protest against the publication of the March unemployment figures that evening. The call to strike had been “fairly well” followed, according to the unions and at midday a hundred or so researchers, analysts and statisticians gathered in front of the tower where they work in the 15th arrondissement of Paris to call for “a neutral and independent public service without political manipulation” and to protest against “genetically modified unemployment figures”.

Despite protests by a number of statisticians, the government, DARES management and INSEE (2) finally decided to go ahead with the publication of unemployment figures based on the ANPE’s (3) figures without correcting them according to INSEE’s employment survey. which will remain censored until the autumn. Not without reason: the survey would have increased the official unemployment rate by 0.3 points and would have neutralised the so-called decrease in unemployment recorded by the ANPE since 2005.

On Wednesday, in an open letter to minister of employment, social cohesion and housing, Jean-Louis Borloo, sociologists, historians, economists and statisticians (4) demonstrated their support for the DARES personnel by demanding that the ministry to suspend publication of ANPE data which permits “the announcement of an artificially low unemployment rate” and is a “manipulation of public opinion, when election periods should be times of transparency on the results of chosen policies”.

It came as no surprise that the government chose to pursue its propaganda. Yesterday on the radio station “France Info”, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin declared that he expected a new decrease in unemployment for March whilst pretending not to have seen the figures about to be published. In the face of this controversy, he replied that there can be “no doubt about these figures” and that it “cannot be denied that unemployment has decreased by two points in the last two years” “because the instrument of measurement of unemployment has not been changed”. A brazen lie since, in fact, the DARES statisticians themselves have revealed four administrative modifications, albeit discreet, adopted by the ANPE, which have led to an artificial drop in the official unemployment barometer.

Translator’s notes

(1) Direction de l’Animation de la Recherche, des Etudes et des Statistiques. Government body for research and statistical analysis

(2) INSEE is the French national statistics agency

(3) ANPE is the equivalent to the national system of Job Centres

(3) Among others Christian Baudelot of the ENS, Michel Husson, Jean-Marie Pernot et Carole Tuchszirer of the IRES, Thomas Piketty of the EHESS, Christophe Ramaux, Bernard Gazier et Jérôme Gautier of the University Paris-I, Olivier Thévenon of the INED...

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