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Diverse workplaces1 make good ‘business’ sense. Increasingly, private sector organisations are using the diversity of their workforce to enhance their competitive advantage in an increasingly globalised and connected world. Similarly, a diverse workforce increases the opportunity to bring various perspectives to identifying and solving problems—a set of perspectives that more likely represent broader community views.
This chapter examines employment patterns for key diversity groups in the Australian Public Service (APS), in particular Indigenous Australians, people with disability, women, and people from non-English speaking backgrounds. It also outlines the views of employees and reports on the strategies being adopted by the APS to attract a more diverse workforce.
In February 2012, the Secretaries Board agreed to establish a Diversity Council, chaired by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Diversity Council comprises selected Secretaries and agency heads, including the Public Service Commissioner (the Commissioner), and aims to reinforce and reinvigorate the commitment of APS leadership on diversity. The Council has given priority to improving employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians and people with disability in the APS, in light of the continuing decline in the representation of these groups. Particular attention is being paid initially to raising awareness and to working with agencies to identify and promulgate good practice. Among other things, the Council is encouraging all agencies to share their experiences to better inform the policy development process. The Council will also support the implementation of APS-wide initiatives to improve the retention and attraction of employees from these groups. Keeping a focus on only one or two of the highest priority groups is also consistent with the literature about how best to improve workforce diversity.
Section 18 of the Public Service Act 1999 (the Act)2 requires agency heads to establish workplace diversity programs. In 2011–2012, 77% of APS agencies had such a program in place in at least part of the agency, which is consistent with last year's result. For agencies with a workplace diversity program, almost 77% monitored it and reported on results in their annual report and almost 50% considered it as part of an annual business planning cycle.
A total of 63% of APS employees agreed their agency is committed to creating a diverse workforce, down from 69% in 2010–11.
Sharing better practice through the Diversity Council will give agencies an opportunity to consider the content of their programs in light of experience of other agencies. It may also more readily identify areas for cross-agency collaboration.
Figure 6.1 shows that the proportion of Indigenous employees and people with disability reported in APS official statistics has again fallen. These groups are particularly vulnerable in times of downsizing and the separation rate for Indigenous employees continues to be approximately double that of non-Indigenous employees. These factors support the increased relative priority being paid to these groups by the Diversity Council.
The long-term growth in representation of women in the APS slowed in the last year. Nevertheless, the APS is a relatively feminised workforce with women accounting for the majority of employees—57.3% of ongoing employees at June 2012.
The rate of improvement in the proportion of APS employees from non-English speaking background3 has slowed in recent years but is still trending upwards.
Figure 6.1 Representation of Equal Employment Opportunity groups among ongoing employees, 1998 to 2012
Note: Y axis contains two different scales.
Figure 6.2 provides insight into the uniqueness of each diversity group in the way it responds to the workplace.
The pattern of separation for each group varies considerably. Indigenous employees, for example, are more likely to resign (57.0%) whereas employees with disability are the least likely to resign (26.5%). Other than women, the pattern of separation for each group differs from the APS average.
Figure 6.2 Separations of ongoing employees—selected type of separation by Equal Employment Opportunity group, 2011–2012
The following sections examine each group on the pattern of representation in agencies, and the factors influencing attraction, employment and retention in the APS.
In early 2009, the Australian Government, as party to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and in line with the COAG's National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation4, committed to increase Indigenous employment across the Australian Government public sector—including the APS—to at least 2.7% by 2015, to reflect the projected national Indigenous working-age population.
In late 2011, a cross-jurisdictional working group (established under COAG) agreed to a revised definition of Indigenous employment for the purposes of reporting against the target. The revised definition includes ongoing and non-ongoing employment. Under the definition the representation of Indigenous employees in the APS stood at 2.2% in 2011–2012, down from 2.3% in 2010–11.
The number of ongoing Indigenous employees decreased from 3,314 in 2010–11 to 3,229 this year, representing a decrease of 2.6% compared with an overall increase in the APS workforce of 0.6%. The representation of ongoing Indigenous employees was 2.1% at 30 June 2012. Table 6.1 shows the overall decline in Indigenous representation since 2008.
|Indigenous employees (ongoing and non-ongoing) (%)||2.4||2.4||2.4||2.3||2.2|
|Indigenous employees (ongoing) (%)||2.2||2.3||2.3||2.2||2.1|
The Indigenous workforce in the APS is feminised. More than two-thirds (67.1%) of ongoing Indigenous employees are women, compared with 57.3% of women in the APS more generally. The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census indicated that women make up 50.7% of the Indigenous population.5
Engagements and job attraction
During 2011–2012, 347 Indigenous Australians were engaged as ongoing employees by APS agencies, an increase from 297 in 2010–11.
- The Department of Human Services (DHS) had the largest increase in engagements of Indigenous employees, from 11 in 2010–11 to 98 in 2011–2012. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Veterans' Affairs also saw significant increases in Indigenous engagements, from 11 to 23 and from 0 to 11 respectively.
- Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) had the largest decrease in engagements, from 68 in 2010–11 to 52 in 2011–2012. The Australian Taxation Office also had a decrease, from 21 in 2010–11 to 7 in 2011–2012.
In the APS employee census, employees were asked what factors attracted them to their current job. Both Indigenous (85%) and non-Indigenous (85%) employees agreed that type of work was an important factor.
The most frequently cited attractions to their current job reported by newly appointed Indigenous employees—those with less than one year's service in the APS—were:
- career development (92%)
- job security and stability (90%)
- type of work (88%)
- employment conditions (88%)
- service to diversity groups (83%)
- service to the general public (82%).
A key difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous new entrants is the focus on providing service to diversity groups. Nearly 83% of Indigenous new entrants reported this as an important factor attracting them to the APS, compared with 37% of non-Indigenous new entrants.
At June 2012, 520 non-ongoing Indigenous employees were in the APS, a small increase from 494 at June 2011. Sixty per cent of non-ongoing Indigenous employees were concentrated in four agencies:
- AHL (130 non-ongoing employees)
- Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (74)
- Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) (60)
- Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) (50).
In the employee census, almost one-quarter (23%) of Indigenous employees stated they were engaged in service delivery compared with 14% of non-Indigenous employees. The second largest proportion of Indigenous employees stated they were engaged in administration (16%), compared with 12% of non-Indigenous employees.
Table 6.2 shows agencies with the highest Indigenous representation among ongoing employees are those with significant functions in respect of Indigenous citizens. FaHCSIA is the only large agency in this group.
|Agency||Total ongoing employees||Indigenous ongoing employees|
|Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies||45||11||24.4|
The proportional representation of Indigenous employees at most classifications remained stable from 2010–11 to 2011–2012. The notable difference is the declining proportion of ongoing Indigenous trainees, from 35.7% of all trainees in 2010–11 to 27.0% in 2011–2012. It should be noted that agencies engage trainees at the APS 1–2 levels rather than in trainee classifications, so variations over time may not reflect changes in the propensity of agencies to engage trainees more broadly. However, for Indigenous employees there was not an offsetting increase in employment at APS 1–2 levels last year.
The overall separation rate in 2011–2012 for Indigenous employees was 13.1%, nearly double the APS rate of 6.6%. Also, this rate is up from 12.8% in 2010–11. There were 430 separations of ongoing Indigenous employees during 2011–2012. Sixty-six per cent of all Indigenous separations were across four agencies, DHS (107), AHL (83), Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (48) and FaHCSIA (47). Table 6.3 shows the types of separations for these agencies.
|Agency||Resignation (%)||Age retirement (%)||Retrenchment (%)|
Note: Totals do not always add up to 100% because not all forms of separation are identified in this table.
The retention of Indigenous employees is an issue for the APS with more separating than being recruited. As a proportion of all APS separations, Indigenous employees rose again this year to 4.2%, up from 4.1% in 2010–11. Figure 6.3 shows that the pattern of Indigenous employee engagements and separations from 2002 to 2012 led to an overall decline in Indigenous representation in the APS.
Figure 6.3 Engagements and separations—Indigenous employees, 2002 to 2012
Not only are Indigenous employees leaving at a greater rate, they are leaving earlier in their career. Ongoing Indigenous employees continue to have shorter lengths of service before leaving than do other APS employees. During 2011–2012, 16.1% of Indigenous employees separated from the APS less than one year after their ongoing engagement, almost twice the rate of non-Indigenous employees (8.4%).6
In the employee census, just over 24% of Indigenous employees said they intend to leave their agency (although not necessarily the APS) as soon as possible or within the next 12 months. The most common reasons cited were:
- lack of career opportunities in the agency (34%)
- desire to try a different type of work (22%)
- senior leadership is of poor quality (19%)
- having been subjected to bullying, harassment and/or discrimination (14%)
- promotions and rewards are not based on achievement (14%).
Chapter 4 shows there were only minor differences in employee engagement between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees. Similarly, the differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees in attraction to their job and reasons for leaving their agency are also mostly minor. This suggests further research is required to understand the consistently higher separation rates for Indigenous employees.
Strategies to improve the representation of Indigenous employees
To meet the government's commitment to increase Indigenous employment across the Australian Government sector, including the APS, to at least 2.7% by 2015, the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) was responsible for the implementation of the APS Employment and Capability Strategy for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Employees (the strategy). The strategy was developed to assist APS agencies to increase Indigenous representation through a range of programs aimed at improving recruitment, retention and career development. The strategy was funded until June 2012. In July 2012, the new APS Indigenous Employment Strategy was introduced.7
In 2011–2012 the Commission worked in partnership with more than 50 agencies to provide employment pathways for 163 Indigenous Australians through the APS Indigenous Pathways Program. The program promoted the APS as an employer of choice to Indigenous job seekers and provided entry-level opportunities for Indigenous trainees (65), cadets (64) and graduates (34). The pathways program accounted for more than 45% of all Indigenous Australians recruited to the APS in 2011–2012.
The strategy also supported Indigenous employees through a range of professional development and networking opportunities. The Indigenous Career Trek program delivered tailored learning and development programs to Indigenous employees across Australia. In 2011–2012, 277 Indigenous employees participated in this program, which focused on career development and advancement. Sixteen Indigenous employees participated in a leadership excellence program designed to support ongoing career development into senior leadership positions. Another 84 Indigenous APS employees undertook a nationally recognised qualification.
Some strategies that two agencies are using to retain and develop Indigenous employees are outlined below.
DEEWR: Mentoring and coaching for retention
In 2012, DEEWR established a co-mentoring initiative, an informal two-way mentoring and coaching relationship between the department's Senior Executive Service (SES) and Indigenous employees at all classifications. The initiative focuses on retaining and advancing Indigenous employees. It also provides senior leaders of DEEWR with valuable insights into Indigenous cultures.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C): Indigenous Executive Leadership Fellowship Program
The Prime Minister's Indigenous Executive Leadership Fellowship places an Indigenous Australian at the heart of policy development within PM&C.
The successful candidate works within PM&C and undertakes a fully funded, two-year Executive Master of Public Administration provided and sponsored by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government. The successful candidate is rotated through different areas of PM&C and provided with individual mentoring and support.
The proportion of people with disability in the APS fell slightly to 2.9% of all ongoing employees as at 30 June 2012 compared to 3.0% in the previous year. In absolute terms, the number of ongoing employees with disability fell from 4,632 to 4,501.
Employees who identify with disability have a slightly older median age than employees who do not identify with disability. The median age for employees reporting disability is 48 years compared to 43 years for employees without disability. Similarly, employees with disability have a higher median length of service compared to employees reporting no disability, with a median figure of 14 years compared to nine years.
In the 2012 census, employees who identified with disability were asked to identify the type of disability. The results are summarised in Table 6.4.
|Principal type of disability||%|
|Source: Employee census|
|Physical (e.g. chronic or recurrent pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, fits or loss of consciousness, incomplete use of arms or fingers)||55|
|Sensory (e.g. loss of sight not corrected by glasses or contact lenses, loss of hearing, speech difficulties)||19|
|Psychological (e.g. mental illness, nervous or emotional condition, head injury, stroke, brain damage)||16|
|Intellectual (e.g. difficulty learning or understanding things)||2|
The results of the employee census indicated that approximately 7% of respondents identified as having some form of disability, which is consistent with the results of previous employee surveys.
Disclosure of disability status across the APS is voluntary and identification as an employee with disability is a personal decision. Interestingly, while 16% indicated they chose not to be identified, 13% had never been asked for the information.
To prompt agencies to improve the way they collect diversity data from employees, amendments to the Commissioner's Directions are expected in late 2012 requiring agencies to ask all employees for diversity information while providing a ‘choose not to answer’ option. It is expected that these amendments will improve the quality of diversity data.
Engagements and job attraction
Employees with disability represented 1.2% of engagements in 2011–2012. There has been a steady decline in the representation of this group since 2003.
The employee census shows that the most important factors that attracted people with disability to working in their current job were type of work (interesting, challenging, different), job security and employment conditions (work-life balance and remuneration package). This finding is similar to APS results more generally.
While employees with disability placed less importance on career development and career progression than the type of work, they were less satisfied with opportunities for career progression in their agency than employees without disability (28% compared with 38%). They were also less likely to be satisfied with their overall access to learning and development opportunities (34% compared with 45%).
Employees who identified as having disability and who were new to the APS—less than 12 months service—reported that the following factors were the most important in attracting them to APS employment:
- type of work (89%)
- employment conditions (80%)
- job-skills match (79%)
- job security and stability (79%)
- career development (73%).
Chapter 4 shows that engagement levels for people with disability are slightly lower than they are for employees who do not report disability. In expressing other perceptions of the workplace, people with disability were:
- less likely than other employees to agree their supervisor works effectively with people from diverse backgrounds (69% compared to 75%)
- less likely to agree their agency was committed to diversity (55% compared to 64%)
- less satisfied with their job overall (62% compared to 74%)
- less satisfied with their ability to access flexible work practices (66% compared with 73%).
People with disability (31%) were also almost twice as likely as other employees (16%) to report experiencing harassment and bullying in the last 12 months. The employee census data on career intentions for people with disability supports this finding.
Figure 6.4 shows the overall decline in the proportion of employees with disability in all classifications except APS 1–2.
Figure 6.4 Employees with disability by classification level, 1998 to 2012
In terms of agency support, the number of agencies that identified an SES employee to act as a senior level advocate for employees with disability declined, from 40 in 2010–11 to 29 in 2011–2012. The number of agencies providing opportunities for people with disability to gain skills and experience under an agency-based employment scheme increased, from 13 in 2010–11 to 22 in 2011–2012. Twelve agencies reported that they provided an agency-wide network for employees with disability, the same result as the previous year. Thirty agencies offered disability awareness programs to employees, with participation voluntary in the vast majority. Forty agencies offered mental illness-related awareness programs that were open to all employees.
In 2011–2012, 4.7% of all separations in the APS and 1.2% of all engagements were employees with disability. This led to an overall decline in the representation of people with disability in the APS. Figure 6.5 shows that while patterns of separations remained relatively stable, engagements have steadily declined over the past 10 years.
There were minor variations in career intentions between employees with disability and those without disability. Approximately 27% of employees with disability intended to leave their agency in the next 12 months or as soon as possible, compared with 21% for others. Figure 6.5 shows the pattern of engagements, separations, and proportion of the APS workforce represented by employees with disability.
Figure 6.5 Engagements and separations—employees with disability, 2002 to 2012
Employees with disability who intend to leave their agency within the next year frequently cited the following five key reasons:
- senior leadership is of poor quality (29%)
- lack of future career opportunities (28%)
- having been subjected to bullying or harassment (24%)
- agency lack of respect for employees (17%)
- promotion and rewards not based on achievement (17%).
Employees with disability who intend to leave within the next year were more likely to retire and less likely to be working in a private sector organisation, which probably reflects the older median age of this group.
Disability employment strategy
The As One—APS Disability Employment Strategy (As One), launched on 14 May 2012, aims to strengthen the APS as a disability-confident employer and improve the experience of employees with disability. The strategy includes 19 initiatives grouped around four main themes:
- improving leadership
- increasing agency demand for candidates with disability
- improving recruitment processes to enable more candidates with disability to enter the APS
- fostering inclusive cultures that support and encourage employees with disability.
Key initiatives under As One include a guaranteed interview scheme, a mental health guide for APS agencies and managers, and work towards an employment pathway for people with disability into the APS. The Commission is also building relationships with key stakeholders, such as those from Disability Employment Australia, Australian Network on Disability and Australian Federation of Disability Organisations. One immediate outcome has been the establishment of a Disability Employment Working Group to strengthen the relationships between disability employment service providers and APS agencies. Disability employment service providers offer specialist support and assistance to employees with disability, their peers, supervisors and managers.
The development and promotion of better disability employment outcomes is a priority for all levels of Australian Government under its National Disability Strategy. The establishment and implementation of As One represents a targeted set of actions by the Commission and broader APS to address this priority.
Some examples of work undertaken in two APS agencies to retain and develop employees with disability are outlined below.
APS Best Practice—Disability Directions Conference 2011
The Commission organised this conference to build the momentum around improving employment outcomes for people with disability in the APS and provide an opportunity for a broad spectrum of stakeholders to meet. The conference featured speakers from across the APS as well as the private sector, such as Westpac and IBM. It was attended by around 160 delegates, from at least 60 Australian Government agencies, state and territory agencies, private sector organisations and community groups. It provided participants with practical tools and better practice ideas to implement disability employment initiatives in their workplaces.
In 2012, FaHCSIA advertised traineeships to employ people with intellectual disability. The administrative officer traineeships were part time (18 hours a week) and non-ongoing (for a fixed 18-month term) and included an opportunity for trainees to undertake a Certificate II in Business Administration.
Thirteen applicants were engaged as trainees at three locations in four agencies. The recruitment process allowed agencies to develop their processes and procedures for providing people with intellectual disability with employment opportunities and enabled supervisors to gain valuable management experience.
A recent article in the Atlantic reflected on the challenges of balancing a high-profile academic and government career with family life.8 The article titled ‘Why Women Can't Have It All’ argues that the baseline expectations about when, where, and how work will be done must change for women and for men to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
This argument is not new. In 2010, McKinsey and Company noted that the business case for developing, retaining and advancing women is strong and continues to get better.9 However, it went on to argue that while United States company leaders are making gender diversity a priority because they can see the value of it to their business, few succeed in achieving their goals. The top circles of private enterprise leadership in the United States remain predominately male with women making up just 14% of Fortune 500 executive committees. In addition there are few women CEOs. Although corporate leaders are working hard to change this, progress remains elusive.
With 39% of women at senior executive levels, the APS has been more successful than have Fortune 500 executive committees. The employee census shows that senior women in the APS are slightly more likely to have caring responsibilities (43%) than are senior men (34%). Of this group with caring responsibilities, males were slightly more likely to report caring for a partner than were females.
At June 2012, the proportion of ongoing women was 57.3% (57.4% at June 2011). There is still considerable variation among agencies in the representation of men and women. Of agencies with at least 1,000 ongoing employees, DHS (71.8%) had the highest proportion of women, followed by the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) (70.6%). Large agencies with the lowest proportion of women were the Bureau of Meteorology (26.0%) and the Department of Defence (40.3%). Trends for total employment by sex are shown in Figure 6.6.
Figure 6.6 Total employees by sex, 1998 to 2012
Engagements and job attraction
In 2011–2012, women constituted 54.5% of all engagements to the APS. The factors most important in attracting women to their current position were type of work, followed by job security and/or stability and employment conditions—the three most important attraction factors for men as well. Women were more likely to rate service to diversity groups as important than were men (34% compared with 24%).
New female APS employees—those employed in the APS for less than one year—showed a generally similar pattern of factors attracting them to APS employment as men, with the following being the most important:
- type of work (88%)
- employment conditions (87%)
- career development (85%)
- job-skills match (80%)
- job security and stability (80%).
The employee census shows that men and women consistently differ in their perceptions of what is attractive about their current job. However, most differences are small. Women are more likely to agree that they are fairly remunerated, with nearly 70% agreeing compared with only 60% of men.
The changes in the proportion of women across all classification levels are minor with the most significant change occurring at the trainee classification level, which decreased by 7.6 percentage points from 54.7% at June 2011 to 47.1% at June 2012.
Women's representation at the Executive Level (EL) and Senior Executive Service (SES) classifications has grown steadily over time, although the growth has slowed somewhat in the past few years. Figure 6.7 shows the proportion of men and women at selected classifications at June 2012. Women outnumbered men at all classifications up to and including APS 6. Fifteen years ago the crossover point was APS 5.
Figure 6.7 Ongoing employees by base classification and sex, June 2012
Although consistent progress has been made, women continue to be under-represented at senior leadership levels. At June 2012, women comprised 39.2% of the SES (up from 38.2% in 2011) and 46.5% of EL employees (up from 46.0% in 2011). Within the SES, women's representation increased at SES 1 and SES 2 levels. Growth was strongest at SES 2, where women's representation increased by 1.6 percentage points, from 35.7% at June 2011 to 37.3% at June 2012. There was no change in the number of ongoing SES 3 women, though the proportion decreased slightly from 29.0% at June 2011 to 28.1% at June 2012 due to an increase in the number of men.
The large agencies with the highest representation of women at higher classifications are FaHCSIA (59.4% of SES and 61.7% of ELs at June 2012), DoHA (57.4% and 63.6%) and DEEWR (56.8% and 56.2%).
At June 2012, 14.0% of all ongoing employees were working part time, up slightly from 13.8% in June 2011. The proportion has risen steadily over time, from 5.1% in 1998, and the rate of growth has been higher for women than for men. Women are still much more likely to work part time, with 21.5% doing so at June 2012, compared with 4.0% of men. Trends over the past 15 years are shown in Figure 6.8.
Figure 6.8 Proportion of ongoing employees working part time by sex, 1998 to 2012
Both male and female part-time ongoing employees are concentrated at APS 4 level—31.8% of female part-time employees are at that classification and 22.5% of male part-time employees. SES employees are least likely to work part time—4.0% of ongoing SES females do so and 0.5% of SES males. Figure 6.9 shows that the proportion of SES women working part time has steadily increased over the past 15 years.
As at June 2012, 21.0% of female ELs were working part time and 4.0% of female SES were working part time. Figure 6.9 shows that over the past 15 years this proportion has steadily increased.
Figure 6.9 Percentage of SES women working part time, 1998–2012
Women constitute 56.2% of all separations from the APS. Figure 6.10 shows that between 2002 and 2009 the representation of women in engagements exceeded their representation in separations. The flattening in female representation in recent years is a function of parity between female engagements and separations.
Figure 6.10 Engagements and separations—women, 2002 to 2012
The employee census revealed only minor differences in career intentions between men and women; slightly more men than women intended to leave their agency as soon as possible or within the next 12 months (23% compared with 20%).
The main reasons women give for wanting to leave their agency include:
- lack of future career opportunities in the agency (33%)
- desire to try a different type of work or seeking a career change (23%)
- senior leadership is of poor quality (22%)
- desire to gain further experience (17%)
- interests do not match the responsibilities of the job (17%).
There were small differences between men and women in where they expected to be working within the next 12 months. Women were less likely to intend to move to the private sector than were men (13% compared with 20%).
Overall, the differences between women and men in their satisfaction with work-life balance were minor (73% women compared with 71% men) as was access to flexible work arrangements (74% women compared with 72% men).
The proportion of ongoing APS employees who identified as being from non-English speaking background rose slightly this year to 5.3%. This is consistent with the trend over several years.
The largest group of employees from a non-English speaking background were born in South-East Asia (22.7% of those who provided country of birth), followed by Southern and Central Asia (22.3%), North-East Asia (17.8%) and Southern and Eastern Europe (14.2%). The most common first languages spoken by these employees were Chinese (including Cantonese and Mandarin), followed by Vietnamese, Spanish, Polish, German and Arabic.
Engagements and job attraction
People from non-English speaking background constituted 4.9% of all engagements to the APS in 2011–2012. Of those with less than one year's service, the most commonly cited factors that attracted them to employment in the APS were:
- type of work (89%)
- employment conditions (86%).
- job security and stability (84%)
- career development (83%)
- job skills match (79%).
The results from the employee census show very small differences in employee engagement between people from non-English speaking background and other APS employees. Additionally, employees from non-English speaking background are as satisfied with their access to learning and development opportunities, workplace health and wellbeing and their work-life balance as other APS employees.
During 2011–2012, representation of employees from non-English speaking background grew at all classification levels—from APS 3–4 to EL—but fell at APS 1–2, trainee and graduate levels. The representation of SES employees remained steady.
Employees from non-English speaking background are much more likely to have graduate qualifications than are other employees—at June 2012, 81.1% had a bachelor degree or higher, compared with the APS average of 58.5%.
Agencies with a high representation of employees from a non-English speaking background are shown in Table 6.5.
|Agency||Proportion of employees from non-English speaking background (%)|
|Private Health Insurance Ombudsman||15.4|
|Migration Review Tribunal—Refugee Review Tribunal||13.6|
|National Library of Australia||13.5|
|Australian Human Rights Commission||12.7|
In 2011–2012, people from non-English speaking background constituted 3.5% of all separations from the APS. Figure 6.11 shows engagements have consistently exceeded separations for this group. This pattern has led to an overall growth in representation. While this growth has been slower in recent years, people from non-English speaking background represented 5.3% of all ongoing employees in 2011–2012.
Figure 6.11 Engagements and separations—employees from non-English speaking background, 2002 to 2012
Employees showed similar career intentions regardless of their language background, with 18% of employees from a non-English speaking background and 22% of other APS employees intending to leave their current agency as soon as possible or within the next 12 months. The most frequently cited reasons for non-English speaking background employees intending to leave were:
- lack of future career opportunities in the agency (35%)
- senior leadership of poor quality (23%)
- promotion/rewards not based on achievement (21%)
- desire to try a different type of work or seeking a career change (18%)
- lack of educational/developmental opportunities (16%).
The majority of employees from a non-English speaking background (59%) intended to work for another public sector organisation within the next 12 months, a result similar to other APS employees (56%).
Diverse workplaces make good ‘business’ sense. Increasingly, private sector organisations are using the diversity of their workforce to enhance their competitive advantage in an increasingly globalised and connected world. Similarly, a diverse workforce increases the opportunity to bring various perspectives to correctly identify and solve problems—a set of perspectives that more likely represent broader community views.
In February 2012, the Secretaries Board agreed to establish a Diversity Council, chaired by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Diversity Council aims to reinforce and reinvigorate the commitment of APS leadership on diversity. It has given priority to improving employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians and people with disability in the APS, in light of the continuing decline in the representation of these groups. Particular attention is being paid initially to raising awareness and to working with agencies to identify and promulgate good practice.
In early 2009, the Australian Government, as party to COAG and in line with COAG's National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation10, committed to increase Indigenous employment across the Australian Government public sector—including the APS—to at least 2.7% by 2015, to reflect the projected national Indigenous working-age population. As at 30 June 2012, representation of Indigenous employees in the APS (ongoing and non-ongoing) stood at 2.2%, down from 2.3% the previous year.
Funding was made available in the 2012 Budget to continue a number of APS-wide initiatives to attract Indigenous recruits to the APS through targeted cadetships, graduate programs, traineeships and the like. This partly replaced long-standing Budget support which lapsed at the end of 2011–2012. These initiatives have underwritten the recruitment of around 730 ongoing Indigenous employees in recent years and were intended to support greater research into the reasons why Indigenous employees separate from the APS at a significantly higher rate than do non-Indigenous employees. This higher separation rate is puzzling because the employee census shows that Indigenous employees are at least as well engaged as other employees and that there is no difference in intention to leave.
There has also been considerable work on improving the attraction, recruitment and retention of people with disability in the APS. The As One—APS Disability Employment Strategy was launched by the Minister for the Public Service and Integrity on 14 May 2012. It will be supported by revised guidance from the Commission to assist agencies to create more supportive and disability-confident workplaces, with particular attention to developing new material on mental health. Responses to the employee census show there is considerable work to do. This group is measurably less engaged than other employees and report significantly higher levels of perceived harassment and bullying than other workers.
The official APSED data indicates that the representation rates of people who identify as belonging to this group declined through 2011–2012. Almost 4,500 ongoing APS employees identify themselves as having a disability. This is about 2.9% of today's APS workforce, compared with 5% in June 1999. Responses to the employee census suggest that actual representation rates are higher since there is a high level of non-disclosure (33%) in published data bases. Although census responses suggest representation of those with disability is closer to 7%, this is still well below the proportion of people with disability in the broader Australian community.
In comparison, the representation of women has stabilised and the number of people from non-English speaking backgrounds increased slightly this year. This is an area where the APS has a competitive advantage which it needs to maintain.
1 Diversity includes differences in gender, age, language, ethnicity, cultural background, disability, religious beliefs and family responsibilities. In the workplace, it also encompasses differences between individuals in educational level, life experience, work experience, socio-economic background and personality.
2 The Public Service Amendment Bill 2012, introduced into parliament on 1 March 2012, contains proposed amendments to the Act that will result in streamlining the APS Values and introducing APS Employment Principles. Agencies will still be required to establish workplace diversity programs; however, the changes to the Act will mean that agency workplace diversity programs will help give effect to the APS Employment Principles, namely: (f) provides workplaces that are free from discrimination, patronage and favouritism and (g) recognises the diversity of the Australian community and fosters diversity in the workplace.
3 People from non-English speaking background are defined as those who were born overseas and arrived in Australia after five years of age and whose first language was not English.
6 Length of service only includes ongoing service.
7 The APS Indigenous Employment Strategy has an increased focus on retention and building the capability of APS agencies to assist the career progression of their Indigenous staff.
9 Barsh and Lee, Unlocking the Full Potential of Women at Work, McKinsay and Company, 2010.