Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, was replying to a request from the economist Jonathan Portes to clarify whether Mr Cameron’s statement was correct. The claim in contention was contained in the sentence where Mr Cameron stated:
'This is a long-term challenge, but progress is being made: while most new jobs used to go to foreign workers, in the past year more than three quarters have gone to British workers.'
In his reply, Andrew Dilnot explained what the official figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) can and cannot show with regards to the employment situation in the UK. The response shows a table that depicts the ‘Net change in the number of people in employment, by nationality’, which the UKSA believes Mr Cameron derived his figures from.
However, this table does not reveal how many ‘new jobs’ have been created in the economy. Rather, it shows an estimate for the change in the number of people in and out of employment. For example, people who move between unemployment and employment or ill health and recovery. It also clarifies that the statistics in the table only show the number of people in employment, which is different from the number of jobs in the economy.
The response states that: 'From the available official statistics, it is therefore not possible to estimate the number of new jobs, nor the number of new jobs that are filled by UK nationals, nor the number of new jobs that are filled by non-UK nationals.'
The response then continues to demonstrate in more detail, what can be derived from ONS data about the level of UK and non-UK nationals in employment. It states that, ‘Over the past five years, the level of employment among UK nationals was estimated to have risen by about 0.9 million, to 27.6 million, a rise of 3%. Over the same period, the number of non-UK nationals in employment increased by about 0.4 million, to 2.8 million, a rise of 18%.’
The letter concludes by saying ONS will consider what further analysis it might provide to shed more light on this area.
Mike Hughes, who chairs the Royal Statistical Society's National Statistics Advisory Group, said: 'The RSS been a long-time supporter of the Authority's interventions about policy discussions being informed by the wrong statistics, and we welcome their ongoing efforts to ensure the public has the right evidence base to inform a clear and transparent debate.'