Dr Chee ah… statistics isn’t rocket science you know…

Dr Chee made a very alarming claim in his rally speech on Tuesday. He claimed:

“In all of last year, the Government only created 100 jobs. Yes… you heard it right. 100 jobs for citizens and permanent residents that means one job per constituency.”

Oh wow! Really that bad?! 100 new jobs in all of Singapore only last year?! Die la die la!

No. Do not panic.

Dr Chee got it wrong. Very wrong. He either misunderstood the statistics or deliberately chose to misrepresent the statistics.

Let’s back up a bit, use our brains, and understand what the statistics say.

The number Dr Chee referred to came from the MOM’s labour market advanced release 2015 that was made public on 28 January 2016. It refers to the growth in local employment, not the number of jobs created.

Aren’t those two the same?

No. They are not. They are completely different things. The growth in local employment refers to the difference between the number of people who started working and the number of people who have stopped working. Let’s say 30,100 people started working (i.e. joined the work force) in 2015. And 30,000 people stopped working (i.e. left the workforce), may be because they had kids and want to be full-time parents (Dr Chee should understand this…) or may be they retired. Then the local employment growth would be

30,100 – 30,000 = 100

It has nothing to do with the actual number of jobs created. The economy actually added more jobs than there are people joining the labour force. For every person looking for a job, there is 1.23 jobs waiting for them. In other words, if 30,100 people looking to join the workforce, there are 37,000 jobs waiting for them. This also means that everyone who is retrenched has slightly more than one job waiting for him to fill. This is very different from what Dr Chee insinuated that all the people retrenched in Bukit Batok have to fight for only one job.

If Dr Chee had read the subsequent report that MOM released on 15 March, he would understand why the local employment growth is so small. Two main reasons.

First, certain sectors are indeed letting go more of their staff than they are hiring. This is particularly true for the retail sector, where there is a significant net decline in casual workers. Second, and more importantly, there are far fewer young people joining the labour force compared to the number of senior citizens retiring and leaving the work force.

Speaking of the subsequent report that MOM had released, Dr Chee’s figure only referred to the advanced estimates by MOM. MOM subsequently revised the figure from 100 to 700. So Dr Chee’s figure is wrong. And his interpretation and understanding is also wrong.

So what happened? If Dr Chee claims that he misunderstood what MOM said, I will say to him, “Come on, Dr Chee, it’s statistics, not rocket science!”

Dr Chee has a PhD in psychology. Psychology is a subject that relies heavily on statistical analysis. To have a PhD in psychology means that Dr Chee MUST be quite capable of understanding statistics. So it is a surprise that he would so grossly misunderstand labour statistics. And to use outdated data that has since been revised is a cardinal sin that any PhD’s worth their salt will NEVER commit.

Why did Dr Chee twist the statistics in such a way? It stinks of the stunt he pulled in 1996 during a Parliamentary Select Committee on Health Care Subsidy chaired by then-MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock. Dr Tan said this of Dr Chee then:

“I came out feeling sad and disappointed that a person like Chee, with a doctorate, could act and behave in such a manner, unbecoming of a man of his standing as a lecturer and researcher… Throughout the many sessions, there were attempts after attempts to show data, figures and charts that were obviously incorrect or not substantiated.”

This is highly disappointing. Yes, we need MPs to ask hard questions. But we need those questions to be grounded in logic, and more importantly, in facts, figures and evidence that stand up to scrutiny. We don’t need MPs who deliberately cherry-pick, misrepresent, and distort statistics to scare, shock and stoke up the emotions of people for whatever agenda they may have.

[Featured image: photo from AFP]


8 thoughts on “Dr Chee ah… statistics isn’t rocket science you know…

  1. The vacancies or statistics do not convey the whole picture. There may be 30,000 vacancies and 25,000 are looking for a job. It is possible 29,000 of these jobs are in cleaning, F & B service jobs or other jobs which have no takers for various reasons. I see your point; but statistics can be twisted any way you choose. Example – 70% voted for PAP – does not mean 70% actually support the PAP. They don’t like the PAP; just that the others were worse ! A vote for the PAP can also be a protest vote – statistics seldom convey the truth. Statistics is just data based on what and how you derive those numbers. There are clever ways to distort numbers. This science is called Analysis. ( I did this for 31 years; semi-retired now ! ).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you. Torture the statistics enough and they’ll say anything you want. BUT. That doesn’t change the fact that what Dr Chee said is completely wrong and misleading.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What do you expect politicians to do ? There are no clean, honest politicians anywhere in the world. All of them will distort info to win votes, that is why politics is the last refuge of the scoundrel


      • But it does seem that CSJ has a greater propensity to distort facts and figures to stoke up emotions. It reminds me of another politician. Not a Singaporean, but a German – Adolf Hitler.


  2. Below is a link to Wikipedia page that explains the term “job created” in economics. Dr Chee’s claim was correct – “In all of last year, the Government only created 100 jobs.”

    From Wikipedia – In a measurement period, if productivity improvement eliminated the need for 100,000 jobs and business activity caused the need for 100,000 new positions, the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) numbers would reflect 0 “new jobs.”



    • @Xmen:
      So do YOU stand in unison and agreement with Dr (..shudder..) CSJ..??

      You (..”cleverly”..) did not state your position categorically. Or are you ALSO demonstrating that abundant, innate propensity possessed by your fellow compatriot and hero to misquote, misinform and insinuate …??


    • No. Dr Chee was wrong. The MOM number doesn’t refer to jobs created but local employment growth. Let’s say in 2015, there are 30,000 Singaporeans and PRs leaving the workforce. They could be leaving for numerous reasons – because of retrenchment and can’t find job, retirement, to be full time parent, to be an author, whatever. Let’s say that in 2015, there are 30,100 Singaporeans and PRs joining the workforce (e.g. people graduating from uni, foreigners newly granted PR status). Even if there are a billion jobs created in Singapore 2015, the local employment growth would still be 100 (i.e. 30,100 – 30,000)


  3. Pingback: Daily SG: 6 May 2016 | The Singapore Daily

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