Media ReleaseGeneration One18 Mar 2021

We must close the data gap before we can “Close the Gap”

New research commissioned by Minderoo Foundation’s Generation One has found that there is a lack of data about Indigenous Australians’ employment status.

Man hands on wallet
Photo Credit: Rafa Elias.

Generation One is urging Australian workplaces to “close the data gap” amid concerns over the invisibility of the Indigenous labour force.

The call to action as part of today’s National Close the Gap Day comes after the release of new research commissioned by Generation One, an initiative of Minderoo Foundation, and conducted by Deloitte Access Economics.

The report concludes it is impossible to determine the true economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Indigenous employment due to a lack of regular and comprehensive data collection.

Generation One commissioned the report as past research suggested that marginalised populations, including Indigenous peoples, were more sensitive to economic shocks, such as a pandemic.

“While we expected the COVID-19 impact figures to be bad, what we didn’t expect was no figures at all,” Generation One CEO Shelley Cable said.

While the report estimates almost 14,500 Indigenous workers lost their jobs at the height of the pandemic between March and June last year, the final number – and whether those jobs have been refilled in the time since – remains unknown.

“Deloitte found that a lack of representative, meaningful and timely data on Indigenous Australians’ employment status and experience was a material barrier to undertaking the required analysis,” Ms Cable said.

“How could it be, in 2021, that no one knows how many Indigenous Australians woke up this morning and went to work?”

Other key findings of the report included:

  • New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia were likely to have experienced the greatest Indigenous job losses.
  • Indigenous Australians were less like to qualify for JobKeeper due to a higher number being employed on a casual basis for less than 12 months.
  • COVID-19 exacerbated existing barriers to employment for Indigenous people such as crowded housing, and poses new employment barriers into the future, including digital exclusion.

“We could be staring at the single biggest blow to Indigenous employment since Closing the Gap began, and not even know it,” Ms Cable said.

“The invisibility of Indigenous Australians within the labour force did not start with the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the last time a comprehensive picture was built on the Indigenous workforce was during the 2016 Census.

“The 2020 Closing the Gap report estimated, using data from years earlier, that the employment gap had closed only 1.3 per cent in an entire decade. With the suspected impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Indigenous workforce over the past 12 months, Deloitte estimates that even this meagre progress has been sent backwards by years.”

Ms Cable said National Close the Gap Day was a chance to highlight the shortcomings in data collection and called on corporate Australia, governments and communities to rise to the challenge.

“If we really want to drive change, especially in an area as nuanced as Indigenous employment, we need the best information at our fingertips, to make the best decisions and the smartest investments with our limited resources and time,” she said.

Generation One’s mission is to create employment parity with and for Indigenous Australians, within one generation.

“We know that better data is critical to this mission,” Ms Cable said. “To this end, we are calling on every Australian workplace to understand and report on the state of Indigenous employment in their own organisations.

“Data collection is a critical step to closing the employment gap faster.”

Ms Cable said there was no good reason that Indigenous Australians, with the longest history of hard work and economic participation anywhere in the world, should be excluded from today’s labour force.

“There’s certainly no reason this exclusion needs to continue for the next 200 years,” she said.

“To the contrary, there are myriad reasons for employing Indigenous Australians and realising the associated economic, social and cultural benefits that come with respecting, including and working with the world’s oldest living civilisation.

“Indigenous employment is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with eight key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.

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