On March 2, the Economist published an article on the government’s work experience scheme (see my previous blogs here and here). Today they published a short letter from me, as follows:
“I was astonished to see you repeat David Cameron’s incorrect assertion about the work experience scheme that “half [of those participating] found paid work soon after finishing the scheme” (“Can work, won’t pay”, March 3rd). About half of the participants stopped claiming benefits, but this does not mean that they found paid work (a substantial proportion of people do not do so). Nor should you have gone on to assert that the scheme was “apparently successful”. As yet we have no data to indicate whether participants in the scheme fared better than non-participants. In my view, work experience schemes have much to commend them in principle; but those who support them should argue on the basis of facts and evidence.”
Unlike the Prime Minister – who was speaking on his feet in Parliament – the Economist has absolutely no excuse; a full week before they published their article, fullfact.org produced a thorough, balanced and accurate description of the available evidence. I don’t know how many people the Economist has covering UK economics and politics, but surely more than fullfact by an order of magnitude. Basic fact-checking is the least we should be able to expect.