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More diversity needed in public sector: report



A new report from the Australian Public Service Commission reveals that people with disability are underrepresented in the Australian Public Sector.

The annual State of the Service Report outlines how the sector responded to the challenges of the past year.

The report was released this week by Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott.

“The rapid changes which COVID-19 has spurred across the APS has generated both new opportunities and higher expectations from the government, the community and our workforce of what the APS can deliver in the future,” he said in the report.

Including people with disability

However, there is still more work to be done, he said.

“We are still lagging in some areas, particularly in our representation of people with disability which has not seen material improvement.

“People from non-English speaking backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and public servants with a disability also still remain underrepresented at the most senior levels.”

The 2021 APS Employee Census revealed that 9.3 per cent of employees reported having a disability, an increase from 8.5 per cent from the previous year.

Over the last 20 years, employees with disability have also consistently had a lower retention rate than employees without disability.

The APS Disability Employment Strategy 2020–25 was developed to address this and other challenges faced by employees with a disability.

Kathryn Campbell, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, believes it is important to include people with disability in the sector.

“With 4.4 million people in Australia identifying as having a disability, improving the representation of people with disability is vital to building a [APS] workforce that better reflects the diversity of the Australian community we serve,” she said in the State of the Service Report.  

Underrepresentation from Indigenous and CALD backgrounds

Data from the Australian Public Service Employment Database revealed that the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in the APS has steadily increased over time.

It rose from 2.6 per cent in 2012 to 3.5 per cent in 2021, however, overall representation has not changed much in recent years.

“Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees only stay in the service for a median 4.3 years compared with 12.9 years for non-Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees,” the report said.

To address this, the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy includes deliverables focused on retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.

When it comes to employees from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, there is not currently a whole-of-APS strategy in place, however, work is being done to strengthen diversity and inclusion.

Over the last 20 years, the proportion of APS employees who did not speak English as a first language has mostly remained at around 10.6 per cent, according to the report.  

The most commonly spoken first languages were Vietnamese (5.8 per cent), Italian (5.7 per cent) and Chinese (5.5 per cent).

The proportion of APS employees whose first language was ‘English only’ is dropping, with recent data showing it dropped from 82.1 per cent in 2002 to 77.3 per cent in 2021.

More women now in APS

The report reveals positive news in regards to gender equality, with more women now in the APS (60.2 per cent) than in the wider Australian labour market (47.6 per cent).

For the first time, women in the APS have reached and, in most cases exceeded parity with men at every level up to and including the collective Senior Executive cohort.

APSC is partnering with the Office for Women to renew the APS Gender Equality Strategy.

On a global scale, Australia is doing well, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Its Government at a Glance 2021 Country Fact Sheet, released this year, revealed that Australia ranks eight in the OECD for women in senior management and ninth on the development of a diverse workforce.

It also found that Australia’s central government workforce is relatively younger, with more employees aged 18 to 54 years, than the OECD average.

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