Home » Business » Retirement point, unemployment, inflation: is INSEE really independent?

Retirement point, unemployment, inflation: is INSEE really independent?

The principle is set down in law. But is the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) really independent of political forces? Several current affairs subjects have revived this old debate in recent weeks, amid criticism accusing it of providing elements of communication to the government.

Three recent grievances

Among the accusers, the demographer and essayist Emmanuel Todd, a notorious opponent of the policy of Emmanuel Macron, suspects in his latest work “Class Struggles in France in the 21st Century” (Seuil) the Institute of minimizing the loss of power buying French by calculating downward inflation, that is to say the increase in prices.

This suspicion is added to that, very widespread, concerning the unemployment rate of the French, whereas the INSEE brings different figures, and often lower, than those produced by Pôle emploi. “What if we stop lying to the French?” “Asserted in mid-February Marine Le Pen on Twitter.

Last snag in date, the government’s desire to solicit the institute to set up an indicator allowing to calculate the value of the retirement point, within a disputed reform, has finished maintaining the vagueness on its supposed links with the power. To the point that the CGT, Force Ouvrière and Sud unions published a statement to reaffirm “the principle of independence of official statistics”.

Statistical constable denounces “cookie-cutter judgments”

Legally guaranteed at national and European level, this principle of independence has been protected since 2008 by the Official Statistics Authority. Like the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) for television content, this body can be approached by various actors, including the director general of INSEE himself, in the event of a litigious situation, but also “s ‘autosaisir’ at the request of any ‘natural or legal person’.

In order to preserve its neutrality, this body is made up of nine members appointed by various personalities such as the President of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, the President of the Economic and Social Council, the First President of the Court of Auditors or even the head of the General Inspectorate for Social Affairs.

This safeguard has just spoken, Wednesday, to reaffirm the independence of INSEE. In a press release published Wednesday, the authority denounces “polemics” intended to “instill, from cookie-cutter judgments, a general baseless suspicion as to the objectivity, quality and independence” of the ‘INSEE, which would not be called into question.

To respond to this skeptical climate, the institute itself has put online a blog whose assumed objective is to respond “directly to the critics, well or badly intentioned, who can be addressed to it”. He explains in particular his calculation methods, which seem to be the source of many questions which he is the subject.

On employment, transparent accounting

In a note from this blog, it is for example recalled that the discrepancy between the unemployment figures of INSEE and Pôle emploi brocaded by Marine Le Pen is explained by different criteria. While Pôle emploi lists people “registered on its lists”, the statistics institute considers as “unemployed” people meeting various conditions, including having carried out an “active search” in the last four weeks or ‘be’ available ‘to work in the next two weeks.

This definition necessarily excludes a certain number of French people registered with Pôle emploi. Still, it would be difficult to accuse INSEE of “lying” about its figures since they are obtained from the statements of the French themselves, asked by survey. Complementary to that of Pôle emploi, this indicator has the advantage of being common “to all countries” and of “not depending on national unemployment monitoring or compensation systems”, argues in particular INSEE.

Inflation and international standards

In fact, the French institute often only adopts international standards. This is for example the case in calculating inflation, notably accused of not taking enough account of the cost of housing. While this represents around 20% of French spending, the INSEE consumer price index retains the figure of only 6%.

As several international organizations suggest, including the World Bank, Eurostat, the IMF and even the UN, INSEE believes that the costs incumbent on the owners, such as credit repayments, do not strictly speaking constitute expenditure, but investments.

“The purchase of real estate does not give rise to the destruction process that consumption entails. It is a heritage and not a consumption ”, points Marie Leclair, head of the consumer prices division of INSEE, in The echoes. However, in France, six out of ten households are owners. Their expenses in gas, water or current works are, they, well taken into account.

Pensions: what other body to do it?

As the retirement point has still not been set up, it is impossible to prejudge its calculation methods. Sure LinkedIn, the director of INSEE, Jean-Luc Tavernier, himself took the lead to prevent any apprehension. “INSEE will report transparently if there are measurement difficulties, methodological choices to make,” he said. This is the role of INSEE. In short, what would have shocked me was if we had entrusted the production of this indicator to another organization. “

In its opinion published Wednesday, the Official Statistics Authority confirms that “such an approach does not contravene the principle of independence of statistics”. Provided, however, that “the corresponding figures are established according to the rules of official statistics”. A condition that there would be “no reason to doubt” but that will verify, he says, the organization “in any event”.

Leave a Comment