Numbers are used to make accurate quantifications, and we rely a lot on them in our daily lives because we trust them. They are indeed independent and objective, and their perception is supposed to be the same by everybody. Nonetheless, numbers can lie: Statistics are one domain where numbers are used but disagreement and distrust are the standard.
Algeria’s ONS just published the labour and unemployment figures for 2009. They carried the study in last October on a sample of 15000 representative population, and the results are as follows:
- Unemployment rate is 10.2% (18% for the females, and 8.6% for the males),
- 73.4% of the unemployed are below 30 yo (86.7% are below 35 yo),
- 34.2% of the employed population works in the public sector (50.5% for the females, 32% for the males),
- 56.1% of the employed population works in the tertiary sector, 13.1% in agriculture and 12.6% in the industry.
These official figures show a constant decrease of the unemployment rate since 1999 (Bouteflika’s first mandate start) as it can be seen in the graph. 2008’s figure, missing in the graph, was 11.8%. I won’t stress on the usual doubts about the ONS’s honesty: the dramatic decrease of the unemployment rate after Bouteflika’s arrival and after a very long stagnation period at around 30%, and also the diminution of this rate despite the economic crisis which affected the globe, including Algeria.
I will rather insist on these results’ meaning. The ONS says that it used the International Labour Organization definition of employment/unemployment in its study. Everyone who had worked at least one hour in one week (the week targeted by the study) is counted in the employed group. This includes regular workers, informal sector workers and also all those who benefited of the governmental aid jobs.
Therefore, the question should be: Do all the “employed” people really have jobs? and are their jobs decent?
The answer is no. The same study tells us that only 30% of the employed population have permanent contracts; the others’ jobs being precarious.
Then, as much as I agree that there are some national and foreign investments which created jobs, their levels are certainly not high enough to explain the unemployment rate decrease alone. The same comment applies to the ANSEJ‘s financed projects. The diminution is rather linked to the informal sector, and the jobs the ministries of labour and of solidarity are financing. These jobs are mostly reserved to university graduates who are paid 7000DZD/month to do nothing, or to do the jobs of their supervisors who are thus paid (more) to do nothing. These jobs are not only artificial but also degrading.
As to the females’ relatively high employment rate, I think the figures explain it easily since most of them are employed by the public sector (health, education, etc.).
So instead of claiming that the unemployment rate is improving, the government should face the reality and help create real productive jobs. The many foreign employees we “imported” to Algeria while our own youths are unemployed is a puzzle for me. Until we stop lying to ourselves (at this rate we could count all the football NT’s supporters as employed people), riots will not stop and neither will the harragas.