Fiddling the unemployment figures of Britain:

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (November 17, item 14). Richard Farmer wrote:

“Britain’s Office of National Statistics announced overnight that the country had 2.62 million unemployed people — 1.02 million of them 16- to-24-year-olds. That took the unemployment rate overall to 8.3% and for the 16-to 24-year-olds to 21.9%.”

Richard didn’t go on to explain why youth (16-24) unemployment had suddenly shot up from around 16% the month before to nearly 22% now.

UK coalition ministers have claimed that long-term youth unemployment is rising largely because of a new “honest approach” when presenting the statistics. Tens of thousands of teenagers whose situation has not changed are now deemed to be unemployed in the official monthly “Labour Force” figures, whereas they were previously recorded as being in back-to-work “training programs” and therefore not unemployed.

However, the UK is not out of the woods when it comes to being honest. Around 1 million Brits are wrongly and deliberately on the Incapacity Benefit (IB) and therefore not counted as being unemployed. Imagine how high the UK’s “unemployment” figure would be if the burst of recent honesty regarding youth unemployment figures carried on into the Incapacity Benefit area? The UK has more on the IB than Germany and France combined yet I am not aware of any new Black Plague!

The last word should always go to Sir Humphrey Appleby, of Yes Minister fame, when he said:

“The language of government: Restructure the base from which the statistics are derived without drawing public attention to the fact.”

Translation: Fiddle the figures.

Red Bucks and Greenbacks:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Bartholomeusz: death of the dollar is greatly exaggerated” (Friday, item 21). Stephen Bartholomeusz is quite right to point out that the Red Chinese renminbi is not about to replace the greenback as the reserve currency of world capitalism. They might have to take Mao off the money, and call it something other than “people’s currency” before that happens!

Yes, China is far from a market economy, and the RMB is far from tradeable. (Though why China should rush to join the pigs running off the cliff is beyond me.)  And the euro is in trouble. But that doesn’t mean the greenback wins by default.

While the US Reserve continues to print money, gold or another real commodity is going to be a better option.

Sandals and journalists:

Clytie Siddall writes: Re. Friday’s Editorial. I think we need to focus on the serious issues. Was Margaret carrying a handbag? Are her earlobes acceptable to News Ltd?