Sunday, 3 September 2017

Lies, damned lies and statistics

On the subject of our current online poll, I came across the article I referred to in an comment on the introductory post once again.

The Telegraph reports Britain’s official government immigration statistics are based on relatively small-scale passenger surveys at airports. Surveys that are dramatically incorrect based on a comparison with a new system which aims to actually measure migration. Incorrect by “tens of thousands” a year for international students alone.

Based on previous figures the analysis suggests that around 3,300 people a year overstay their visas, far lower than estimates which suggest tens of thousands of people “vanish” after finishing their degrees. Yes, they do vanish… back home overseas… All those foreign students we thought were staying in the UK illegally actually left a long time ago. Only 3% remain each year according to the new system’s figures.

And even the new system introduced in 2015 can’t handle it when an immigrant dies, has a second passport they use to exit the country, or someone misspells their name at customs. When the number crunchers compared airline data with immigration data from the new system, they still only got a 90% match for people needing visas. In other words, the new and significantly improved system can’t count humans either.

I rather think that this is the sort of thing that the coiner of the title phrase had in mind.


Mark In Mayenne said...

Lies, damned lies, statistics and government statistics.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Strange. What's the motivation for relying on statistics which are apparently wrong?

L fairfax said...

I wonder why Governments don't record more information. Some people say immigrants or their children are responsible for lots of rapes in Sweden. The Swedish Government says this is not true but won't record the information needed to prove them wrong.
With NI cards it should be possible to change the system so that you can record where people come from so we could easily prove how much people get in benefits from country x. However we don't - although considering the UK's Government IT problems I can understand why they don't want to make that change.

Bayard said...

MW, so that they can be made to say what they want them to say?
There's nothing new about anti-immigration rhetoric and the government would much rather people blame immigrants for at least some of their woes than the government.
Although the Brexit vote happened in 2016, we had been building up to it for several years, so it is not surprising that the government would change a system in advance of that date, that had been giving them the "statistics" they wanted (lots of immigrants overstaying) once they wanted to portray a different message.

Jonathan Bagley said...

I've come to the conclusion that UK governments do not want accurate figures for net migration and UK population growth. These are cheap and simple to obtain. We know very accurately the number of births and deaths each year. All that is then needed is a tally of people leaving and entering the Uk, even for a day or less, so including pilots, flight attendants etc. Similarly for ferries. These numbers exist. It may need a couple of people with clickers at each end of the tunnel and the, apart from a handful of stowaways a day, we would be able to create a pretty accurate record. It's only a matter of adding and subtracting. Even the Government's pathetic IT could cope with that. Off course, we have little idea of the current population, but in future, we would know by how much it had increased.