The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

.

It is worth remembering what we mean when we talk about unemployment but we should remember how easy it is to squabble over its definition and how hard it is to fix. Let's grudgingly agree on the first part, for the sake of constructive argument about the second.

If we don't, we end up with bad-faith dismissal of inconvenient facts posing as intellectual sophistication (a strain of the dreaded Kerrian nuance). Witness this paragraph from William Pfaff's survey of France:
[T]he rate of French youth unemployment is not what it usually is made out to be, since free baccalaureate- and university-level education keeps young people off the job market much longer than in most countries. As a result, as London's Financial Times reported in its March 25–26 issue, the official figures are misleading. The newspaper calculates that 7.8 percent of French people under twenty-five are actually out of work, as compared with 7.4 percent in Britain and 6.5 percent in Germany. Accurate comparison with the United States is almost impossible because US unemployment figures do not include the imprisoned and those not actively seeking work.
Two things:

1. Secondary education is not necessarily the opposite of unemployment nor is secondary education always useful (sa Pfaff points out later in his article, there can be such a thing as a harmful surplus of degrees). If you factor out all the people on two-year sick leave for stress you get Sweden's incredibly and surprisingly low unemployment rate. Factor them and their ilk in, and the rate increases. But let's not squabble too much about this. Let's just say that Sweden's unemployment rate is lower than France's.

2. Accurate comparison with the United States is actually possible because US unemployment figures do not include the imprisoned and those not actively seeking work and neither do unemployment figures in the U.K.