Census figures for the young just don't add up

Published 01/08/2012 | 10:05

Dear Sir, your edition of July 4 2012, commenting on the latest Census report ' At Work', carried a shocking headline 'Youngest workers hardest hit with 65 per cent unemployed', on page 8. In the fifth paragraph of this article this is explained as 'of those aged 15-19, who are eligible to work, a total of 63.3 per cent are unemployed''. I am afraid your paper has combined reckless use of statistics with careless use of language to paint a much bleaker situation than is the reality, bad as it is.

When looking at 'Economic Status', Census 2011 has seven categories for placing those aged 15+ into: - At Work, First Time Job Seeker, Unemployed, Student, Home Duties, Unable to Work, and Other. Those who fit in the first three categories comprise the Workforce; and when expressed as a percentage of all persons aged 15+ we get what is called the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR).

Thankfully young people are now legally required to remain in Education and/or Training until aged 18. So it is not surprising that the LFPR for those in the 15-19 age category is low, around 15 per cent in fact. The greater number of 15-19 year olds are in the Students category. Your article uses the word eligible to work but this is not a word the Census uses, preferring the more precise 'available for' work, which includes those 'At Work', those ' Unemployed' and those 'Seeking their First Job' and excluding the other four Categories. .

Thus, looking at any random sample of 1,000 Louth 15 – 19 year olds, some 15 per cent, or 150 would be 'available for' work. If 63.3 per cent of these are Unemployed, then 95 of the 1,000 are Unemployed. And that, thankfully, is actually 9.5 per cent of the sample of 1,000 who are unemployed, a far cry from the 65 per cent that your headline suggests.

I would be grateful if you would clarify this matter.

Yours, Pat McDaid, Meadowview,

Drogheda.

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