The public service's latest census results have been criticised following the removal of questions relating to cultural diversity within the government's nearly 150,000-strong workforce.
The yearly employee census measures staff sentiments along with key demographic markers but questions relating to country of origin and languages spoken at home other than English were absent in the 2020 report, released last Wednesday.
Diversity questions relating to disability, sexuality and carer responsibilities remained.
The Australian Public Service Commission, who organises the questions and collects the data, said the questions were cut due to changed environment caused by COVID-19 and would return in the next census.
"Due to COVID-19, the 2020 APS Employee Census was shaped to provide a 'pulse' of employee sentiments in the current environment," a spokesperson for the commission said.
As such, the survey was "significantly shortened", they said.
"The questions capturing country of birth and language will be reinstated in the 2021 APS Employee Census," the spokesperson said.
The commission said the data on cultural and linguistic diversity was sent by each department and agency's human resources team and collected in the employment database released every six months.
Australia's public service needs to look much more like Australia.- Andrew Giles, Labor's immigration spokesperson
But Labor's spokesperson for immigration and citizenship Andrew Giles said fostering a successful multicultural society meant collecting as much data on the public service's makeup as possible.
"Our public servants do vital work, setting policy directions, and providing the services that underpin Australia's social compact. Labor has been calling for Australia to join other multicultural societies in better measuring our diversity," Mr Giles said.
"That means gathering more data on diversity, not less.
"It means making sure we have APS data on questions like country of birth and whether a language other than English is spoken at home."
The most recent data on the shape of the public service's cultural diversity was collected at the end of 2020.
It showed the overwhelming majority of public servants, around 63 per cent, were born in Australia with England and India following behind at 13.6 and 11.9 per cent respectively.
Employees from non-English speaking backgrounds were split into two categories - those who arrived in Australia after the age of 5 and whose first language isn't English as well as a separate category for their children.
Together the groups represented 14.4 per cent of the public sector workforce in 2020. A figure that falls well below the nearly 30 per cent of the country's population born overseas, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Mr Giles said it was time for the public service to better reflect the country's increasing diversity.
"Australia's public service needs to look much more like Australia," Mr Giles said.
"We can't fairly claim to be the world's most successful multicultural society if we don't work to ensure the diversity in the community is reflected in places of power and influence."
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