Statistics and damn lies

Everybody knows the saying that there are lies, damned lies and statistics, but perhaps in the Netherlands it would be better to say there are statistics, damned statistics and official reports.

It seems that hardly a day goes by without some advertising-driven report coming out in the guise of news and stating some odd fact about the Dutch – or one of the Netherlands various sub groups such as teenagers or the over 55s or, almost always, Muslims.
There must be an awful lot of companies out there doing the research and compiling all these useful bits of information.
But alongside the statistics, there seems to be a never-ending string of official reports which all come up with some dramatic conclusion.
Today, we have the health inspectors report which concludes that small hospital intensive care units are not up to scratch and many should be shut down – a claim which the infuriated hospitals association says is without proper underpinnings.
Yesterday we had shock horror stories about the high number of baby deaths in Holland – taken from an EU-backed report which seemed to ignore the differences in the way the Dutch compile their statistics.
Statistics are all very well, but we need to retain a healthy scepticism. Quite often the figures simply don’t add up.

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