Socio-economic background questions to boost diversity

The class-conscious Brits have decided to find out whether their civil service bosses really are as posh as many believe. For all our reputed egalitarianism, perhaps Australians should too.

We know a fair bit about who our senior public servants are. They’re mostly white, and more likely to be male (though that’s changing).

Less often considered is the socio-economic background of Australia’s government executives. While the Australian Public Service definition of “diversity” mentions socio-economic background, there doesn’t seem to be much data collected about it.

Studies suggest Australia has higher social mobility and lower inequality than the United Kingdom and United States. Inequality is, however, continuing to grow, which will likely lead to lower social mobility — so should we be asking bureaucrats where they went to school and if they were ever in state care in an effort to ensure the public service is reflective of society at large?

No doubt socio-economic background is not quite as simple to measure as gender or Indigenous identification, but it seems the United Kingdom has figured out a way to wrangle with this sometimes sensitive question.

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