The perils of perception


Sir, – In “Perils of perception*: why people get so much wrong” (Weekend, August 22nd), Damian Loscher understates the severity of the current housing crisis in Ireland. He implies that the current home ownership rate of 70 per cent makes housing a matter of lesser concern. In this, he misses the trend over the past 20 years. According to official census figures, in 1991, roughly 70 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds owned their own houses; by 2016, only 30 per cent of this age bracket did so. That such an alarming trend can be so missed is a good illustration of the perils of omission.

Commenting on the public’s “misunderstanding” of the public-private wage differential, Mr Loscher is quoted as saying that “the gap between perception and reality is perhaps because the public sector has vocal unions who are much better at PR”. This is, in fact, more likely due to disproportionate number of employees being paid well below the average wage in the private sector. An analysis by the CSO in 2018 shows that 40 per cent of private-sector workers were paid less than the current living wage, compared to fewer than 10 per cent of the public sector. This 40 per cent of workers obscures the huge private-sector salaries in the upper centiles. That such injustices at either end of the pay scale can be concealed like this is a prime example of the perils of aggregation.

Finally, the article’s suggestion that the health service is a less important issue because 80 per cent of Irish people rate their current health as good or very good, in a survey asking respondents to rate their own current health, is a paragon of the perils of misconstruction.

If the data doesn’t accord with your perceptions and experience, take a very close look at the data.

The perils of perception are the least of your worries. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.