Stats SA: COVID-19 may have impacted accuracy of SA’s unemployment figures

The chief director responsible for labour statistics at Stats SA, Malerato Mosiane, said the Quarterly Labour Force Survey results were meant to go out on 22 February but had to delay the release of the results 'because of some concerns on the quality of data'.

FILE: In March, Statistic South Africa announced the country’s unemployment rate has crossed the feared 35% threshold. Picture: 123rf.com

A panel that advises Statistics South Africa has on Monday warned that the country’s unemployment numbers may be incorrect.

Speaking on the Afternoon Drive Show on Radio702, the chief director responsible for labour statistics at Stats SA Malerato Mosiane, said the Quarterly Labour Force Survey results were meant to go out on 22 February but had to delay the release of the results “because of some concerns on the quality of data".

In March, Statistic South Africa announced the country’s unemployment rate has crossed the feared 35% threshold in the fourth quarter of 2021, bringing the rate to 35.3%.

The figure grew by 0.4 percentage points as compared to the third quarter of 2021.

We had to do a series of quality checks and after having done the series of quality checks, we took a decision not to publish the estimates at metro level but only publish the national and provincial estimates.

Malerato Mosiane, the chief director responsible for labour statistics at Stats SA

According to Mosiane, the challenge Stats SA was faced with related to the low public response rate to their surveys.

Most of these surveys were conducted telephonically due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We know that telephonic interviews normally have low response. Before COVID-19 came, we were still doing face-to-face interviews. And we were forced to go into telephonic interviews due to COVID, so that we can still provide the country with the key labour market indicators that the country still needs.

Malerato Mosiane, the chief director responsible for labour statistics at Stats SA

With the country recording less COVID-19 cases compared to the previous two years, Mosiane says they have started reverting to face-to-face interviews since April.

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