Stats SA will reorganize the collection of unemployment data


South Africa’s statistics agency plans to resume face-to-face interviews and increase publicity of its quarterly unemployment surveys after response rates plummeted following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The response rate fell to a low of 45% in the latest unemployment data, from an average of 77% in the second quarter of 2020, as the agency switched to using computer-assisted telephone interviews when travel was restricted to curb the spread of the pandemic and in-person field surveys were halted, General Statistician Risenga Maluleke said on Tuesday from the capital, Pretoria.

The fourth quarter unemployment figures excluded data from some regions where it was considered unreliable due to insufficient responses.

Although South Africa’s situation is not unique, persistently low data collection rates could “serve as a warning that early published estimates may not accurately reflect reality”, said senior economist Miyelani. Maluleke of Absa Group Ltd. in a note earlier this year. examined how the virus had disrupted the traditional measurement of economic data.

“We go back to visit people in their homes to collect information on the current quarter,” Malerato Mosiane, the agency’s chief director for labor statistics, said in an interview.

This would increase the response rate and avoid phone interview pitfalls such as people dropping the call before the data is submitted or not responding, she said.

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