Data journalism debunks DA’s “Zuma unemployment blame game” billboard 

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Are 774 jobs lost everyday in South Africa under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma as the DA has so confidently claimed? The short answer is, no.

When the DA launched its #DAforJobs campaign billboard in Johannesburg claiming the fact, didn’t quite buy the stat. So we did a bit of digging through data and the stats from non-profit data journalism group, AfricaCheck, confirms our suspicions.

The party’s main aim is to campaign for votes by showing the ANC and Zuma’s inability to combat the unemployment rate in South Africa and according to the DA, between 1st July 2009 when Zuma became president of the country and the third quarter of 2015, 1.76 million jobs were lost.

Africa Check said the DA came to this figure using stats from Statistics South Africa that detail the number of unemployed people actively looking for the job and those who have become discouraged from doing so.

Africa check

The group further explains how the DA got to the 1.8 million figure it’s using on a live ticker at the top of the billboard and its homepage stating it as the total number of jobs that have been lost as of the 6th January.

“First, the party counted the number of days between 1st July 2009 to the last day of the last quarter for which a quarterly labour force survey is available,” wrote Africa Check’s Lebohang Mojapelo. “This gave 2 283 days. The DA then divided the 1.767 000 jobless people from their first calculation by 2 283 days to come up with the rate of 774 jobless people per day.”

“To calculate the starting point for their billboard, the DA counted the number of days between the start of the last quarter of 2015 (1st October) and the date of the unveiling of the billboard (6th January), a period of 98 days,” Mojapelo wrote. “Multiplying 98 by 774 equalled an additional 75 852 jobless people on their books. This figure was added to the nett figure of 1.767 000 unemployed people, leading to the DA’s starting number of 1.842 852.”

Since the day the billboard was put up, it’s been adding 774 more jobs lost a day and as of writing this article, that number stands at 1.854 313.

While the DA may have used the correct sources for their figures, their calculations are flawed mainly because they have left out an increase of 1.47 million jobs over the same time, the rise in demand for jobs being faster than the creation of jobs (particularly due to school and varsity leavers) and the fact that the party used the incorrect figures.

According to Stats SA’s Monet Durieux, whom Africa Check spoke to, it boils down to the agency’s data sets, which have been updated and are presented in different forms.

According to Durieux, the DA shouldn’t have combined unemployed and discouraged job seekers to arrive at the number of unemployed according to its broad definition.

“The DA should have used the number of unemployed people according to the broad definition released in a separate data set by Stats SA,” Durieux explained.

“Instead of 5.88 million unemployed people in the second quarter of 2009, the correct figure the DA should have used is 6.68 million people. And in the third quarter of 2015 there were 8.3 million unemployed people according to the expanded definition, not 7.64 million. This means a rise of 1.66 million unemployed people from the first full quarter Zuma was in power until 2015’s third quarter, not 1.77 million,” Africa Check added.

The change in Stats SA’s survey sample, which changed from using a sample based on 2001 Census in the first quarter of 2014 to using data from the 2011 Census data last year, meant that the number representing unemployed people went up significantly between the first quarters of the two years.

“In our publication we are comparing data based on the old and new sample, but with a note regarding the fact that the estimates are derived from two different samples,” Durieux said.

So, all-in-all, the DA is not completely off the mark in their statement, but it does need to revisit its data checking.

“First, the party did not take into consideration the number of jobs that have been created in the period they refer to. Secondly, the expanded definition of unemployed they used was incorrect, resulting in the use of wrong figures in their calculations,” Africa Check concluded.

“Thirdly, the DA compared surveys that were based on two different survey samples, which Statistics SA advises should be done with caution. And finally, the South African labour market does not shed, or add, the same number of jobs daily.”

[Source – Africa Check, images – DA]