The Abbott government wants to stop collecting some of the gender equality data currently required of Australian businesses. Because what’s something cheap you can give business in a time of (sorta) fiscal constraint? Red tape reductions.. and gender equality data can potentially be embarrassing to both business and government so there’s some low hanging fruit right there if you’re a less than visionary government.
Conservative columnist and economist, Judith Sloan is leading the charge for the government with “Surge in red tape gives gender equality a bad name” – and here she is in The Australian describing the kind of data we collect at the moment…
What are the minimum standards of gender equality on which all private-sector companies with more than 100 employees must report? There are five indicators and the level of detail required is ludicrous. Take the gender composition of the workforce. There are three management categories and 10 non-management categories listed. Then there is the disaggregated data on remuneration between women and men. Details are required on the annualised average full-time equivalent base salary and total remuneration for all 13 categories of workplace profile, plus by employment status.
Given this data is all computerized and the bulk of it is collected in a standard payroll database it is difficult to see what exactly is so onerous about this but Sloan is trying her best to make the case. The other kinds of data collected by government include the family friendly working arrangements offered by a company and which of their employees use them. Again, all of this information is routinely collected by companies about themselves. Sure, reporting requirements aren’t cost-free but they’re not enough to have any Human Resource Department on a fainting couch either. And anyway, there’s no significant penalty for non-compliance and half the firms love the exercise because they use any better-than-average results to compete for the best job applicants.
So, Sloan tries another argument in relation to the data..
But I have come to the fundamental question: what is the point?
Goodness Judith, as two economists we will never guess what use you might make of data.