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Complainant Name:
Jonathan Portes

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Daily Mail


Jonathan Portes, Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "Migrants take four jobs for every one that goes to a Briton: Unemployment tumbles by 132,000 in three months", published by the Daily Mail on 14 August 2014, included inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice. The complaint was on-going as of 8 September 2014, at the time of the closure of the PCC. It was therefore considered by the Complaints Committee of the Independent Press Standards Organisation in accordance with the procedures of the PCC.

The newspaper had failed to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information in breach of Clause 1 (i), but had offered sufficient action to remedy the initial breach.

The article reported on statistics issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on the UK labour market. The article made several claims about the number of jobs that were awarded to migrants. It claimed that "migrants take four jobs for every one that goes to a Briton"; "over nine months seven out of every ten newly-available jobs thrown up by the recovering economy have been taken by workers who were born abroad"; and "between April and June, foreign-born workers took more than four new jobs for every one taken by a British-born worker".

The complainant said these claims were inaccurate: the ONS figures from which they were drawn related to net changes in employment, not "jobs" or "new jobs". The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) had previously stated publicly that it was inaccurate to describe net change in employment as "new jobs"; it represented the difference in the flows of people into and out of employment. Furthermore, the number of people in employment and the number of jobs in the economy were different things: an individual may have more than one job, or share a job. The complainant confirmed that it was not possible to estimate the proportion of new jobs filled by UK nationals based on the ONS figures, although he noted that an analysis of statistics by the London School of Economics' Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) found that immigrants had never accounted for the majority of new jobs generated in the UK.

The complainant was particularly concerned by the inaccuracy, as the newspaper had previously received a complaint, via the PCC, about the same issue, which had been resolved with the amendment of that online article's headline.

The newspaper said the phrase "new jobs" had been widely used as shorthand for net changes of employment, including by the Prime Minister and other national newspapers. It accepted that this was technically inaccurate but argued that, as the correlation between net changes in employment and the creation of new jobs was so close, it was not significant. It denied that it had deliberately misled readers on this point; it had been attempting to simplify a complex issue. While a complaint had been made to the PCC in 2011, it had not accepted a breach of the Editors' Code at that time, and it had not received a complaint on the issue since then. The newspaper noted that the Chair of the UKSA said it was not possible to estimate the number of new jobs; it did not see how the complainant could claim that immigrants had never accounted for the majority of jobs. Nevertheless, it offered to amend the online article and to publish the following correction:

An article on 14 August made references to the proportion of ‘new jobs' taken by foreign workers. We would like to make clear in relation to this and previous articles that the Office for National Statistics data on which this was based tracks net changes in employment rather than new jobs and that the number of people in employment and the number of jobs in the economy are not the same. The statistics did not therefore support the claims made about new jobs. We are also happy to clarify that, between June 2013 and June 2014, the numbers of UK and non-UK-born workers increased by 502,000 and 327,000 respectively.

The complainant considered that the wording was inadequate. It did not account for the fact that the newspaper had made this error in a number of articles previously and omitted reference to the CEP analysis.

Sufficient remedial action offered


The PCC had previously considered this issue in August 2014, following a similar complaint against another publication. Its ruling (published after the article under complaint) had found that it was significantly inaccurate to describe changes in levels of employment as "new jobs". The Complaints Committee maintained this position and noted its particular concern that the inaccuracy had been published despite a previous complaint against the publication, in 2011, on the same issue. This amounted to a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (i) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The 2011 complaint was relevant to the Committee's ruling under Clause 1 (i), and it welcomed the newspaper's offer to amend other instances in which the inaccuracy had been published in the intervening period (during which time it had been published regularly elsewhere, as well). Nonetheless, the Committee considered the sufficiency of the remedy proposed specifically with reference to the article under complaint.

Clause 1 (ii) requires that "a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published". The Committee was of the view that the correction ought to have identified the error more clearly. It should have pointed out that it was incorrect to assert that the "majority" of "new jobs" went to foreign workers on the basis of the statistics on which the article relied. However, it did not have powers to determine the nature, extent and prominence of the correction, such as exist under IPSO procedures. Its role was to determine the adequacy of the remedy offered by the newspaper.

Having considered the matter closely, it concluded on balance that, following extensive correspondence, the wording now offered by the newspaper adequately identified the inaccuracy and explained the correct position. Further, it noted that the newspaper had accepted from its first response to the complaint that a correction was necessary. In all the circumstances, the Committee decided that the newspaper had met the requirements of Clause 1 (ii); the correction offered should now be published without delay. The Committee took the opportunity, however, to make clear its concern that this inaccuracy should not be perpetuated further.

Date Published:

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