As world leaders gathered in Brisbane, Australia, to discuss the world economy, fact-checking organizations held their own virtual summit — to check the claims made by those leaders. The Factcheckathon is intended to show the reach and breadth of the growing journalistic fact-checking movement. It was organized through the initiative of Alexios Mantzarlis of Pagella Politica, an Italian fact-checking organization, and Cristina Tardaguila of Preto No Branco, a fact-checking blog of the Brazilian newspaper O Globo.
All told, nine fact-checking Web sites, including The Fact Checker and PolitiFact in the United States, participated in a joint fact check of statements made by eight members of the Group of 20. We have provided summaries of the fact checks below, as well as links to the original fact check. The interactive Prezi above will also link to the fact checks.
As readers will see, the G-20 leaders had a tendency to inflate statistics that put their country’s performance in a better light.
The Fact Checker has also vetted two other statements made by President Obama during his news conference at the G-20. He earned an Upside-Down Pinocchio for flip-flopping on using executive action on immigration and Three Pinocchios for comments about the destination of oil that would flow through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Barack Obama, president of the United States
“Over the last few years, we’ve put more people back to work than all the other advanced economies combined.”
From publicly available data, we know that since 2009, the United States has created roughly the same number of jobs as the 35 other advanced economies combined, and more than the other six biggest economies. This is due in part to the fact that the United States is the most populous of the advanced economies. However, it’s not as clear-cut that this recovery involves putting “more people back to work,” as Obama suggests. The labor force participation rate has consistently declined during this period, suggesting that more unemployed Americans are dropping out of the workforce, rather than taking new jobs.
“The United States is in the longest stretch of uninterrupted private-sector job growth in its history.”
Obama carefully says “private-sector” jobs, which allows him to exclude federal and state government jobs. (Obama is the only recent president under whom cumulative public-sector job creation is negative.) Under that specific criteria, there have been 56 straight months of job gains, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is a longest period since records started being kept in 1939. Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan would have longer and stronger periods of growth, but each suffered a one-month relapse that spoiled their records. Thus, even with those caveats, we award a Geppetto Checkmark to the president’s statement.
Ahmet Davutoğlu, prime minister of Turkey
“We managed to create 6 million new jobs in Turkey, since 2008 financial crisis.”
The latest employment figure for Turkey is 26.3 million for August 2014. The amount of growth in employment figure since 2008 financial crisis depends on what period you take as a starting point of the crisis. The comparison in monthly basis leads to mistaken results without using seasonally adjusted figures. We take annual figures of employment in 2008, and since then, 5.2 million jobs have been added. However, considering the seasonally adjusted employment figure for August 2014, the real change is 4.7 million. When we take the annual employment figure in 2007, the growth is 5.1 million. In short, Davutoğlu is right to claim that the Turkish economy has performed well in creating employment despite the 2008 financial crisis, but he exaggerated growth in employment figures.
Matteo Renzi, prime minister of Italy
“We must return to growth, which means creating more jobs. This year we created 153,000 jobs.”
It depends on the month you start from. The latest available data are for September and show 22.457 million people are employed. That is a gain of 96,000 since January. However, Renzi was sworn in in February 2014, which had seen a dip in employment compared to January. So starting in February yields a net gain of 139,000 jobs. Since March (Renzi’s first full month) it’s just 70,000. You only get 153,000 jobs if you start counting from April. Renzi thus selectively chooses to start counting from the month when employment was lowest to exaggerate his record.
Joe Hockey, treasurer of Australia
“Barack Obama has to get any initiative on climate change through a hostile U.S. Congress.”
The executive powers of the president, and the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to impose stricter emissions standards, are well established, so the recent agreement with China does not have to be ratified by Congress. However, Republicans in Congress could try to limit funding to the EPA, and that could trigger another government shutdown. But there are still questions over Obama’s ability to deliver on the climate deal without support from Congress.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president of Argentina
“For the first time in the history of the G-20 the subject of restructuration of sovereign debts was included in the final communiqué.” (on her Twitter account)
A statement about the need for orderliness and predictability of the restructuring of sovereign debt was included, for the first time, in the final communiqué, followed by a call to further action that includes “work on strengthened collective action and paripassu clauses.” These are two of the issues that Argentina, which technically defaulted on its debt in July, is struggling with in the legal battle it has with hold-out creditors — debt owners who did not participate in the Argentine restructuring and are demanding full payment of the nominal value of the debt, along with interest. A U.S. court in July ordered Argentina to pay $1.33 billion plus interest to the holdouts.
Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil
“Electricity reaches more than 99 percent of our population.”
According to 2010 Census, Brazil had 57,324,185 households, and only 728,512 (1.27 percent ) didn’t have electricity. The 2013 Pnad (National Research on Households) found out that the number of households had increased to 65,258,000 and that electricity was available in 99.8 percent of them.
Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council
“Let me also in this G-20 context recall that the European Union remains the biggest donor of development aid.”
Van Rompuy should have specified that it is the combined total of the E.U. and its member states (as opposed to the E.U. by itself), which is more than twice the second-place United States. Though numbers on aid are ever less clear due to China and the Arab states’ choice of alternative channels, the E.U. and its member states are still undoubtedly top dog in terms of overseas development assistance.
South African government
“African women (between the ages of 15-34 years) constitute 37.5 percent of youth not in employment and not in education/training (NEET) compared with 31.5 percent for white males.” (statement in employment plan presented at G-20 summit)
The South African government is rightly worried about the exclusion of women from the job market, especially those between ages 15 and 34. But officials got their numbers wrong, and so they skew the picture for policy makers. Data show that African women between the ages of 15 and 34 constitute 49.1 percent of youth not employed or studying – not 37.5 percent. And the corresponding figure for white males is 1.1 percent, not 31.5 percent. Only one in seven white males are not employed or studying, but for black women this figure is nearly one in every two.
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