Class an issue in 'classless' Australia

Tim Dornin
·3-min read

Class is still an issue in Australian society and can lead to exclusion, discrimination and harassment in the workplace, new research has found.

The Diversity Council of Australia surveyed more than 3000 workers across the country and found that those who identified as "lower class" were almost twice as likely to suffer discrimination on the job, and were more likely to be ignored or miss out on opportunities and privileges.

They were also more likely to be left out of workplace social gatherings.

Council chief executive Lisa Annese said the research showed that class "counts a lot" and Australia needed to start talking about it.

"This research shows that we can no longer ignore class, and need to start addressing it to build truly inclusive workplaces", Ms Annese said.

"Class was the diversity demographic most linked to workplace inclusion. There were clear differences between self-identified lower and higher class people on every question we asked."

In its research the Diversity Council regarded class as someone's social standing compared to other Australians based on a range of factors including wealth, income, education and occupation.

It said all these factors combined created a person's status, power and position in society.

Those who identified as lower class had the lowest level of education, the lowest household incomes, were less likely to own property and were less likely to have parents who worked in high-prestige jobs.

Middle class people generally had higher incomes, were more likely to owner property and have parents with above-average educational qualifications.

Those who considered themselves to be upper class had the highest paying jobs, more disposable income, above average educational qualifications and high prestige jobs.

Ms Annese said the issue of class in Australia had long been ignored because of the enduring myth that it was the "land of the fair go" where there was no classist society.

But she said the research showed that Australia needed to do more to get a better understanding of the impacts of class in the workplace.

"We need a concerted effort to build inclusive organisations across the Australian economy," she said.

"Only by increasing workplace inclusion can we ensure that everyone can experience a fair go."

Key findings of the research included:

* Only half of the lower-class workers trusted their organisation to treat them fairly compared to 73 per cent for those considered middle class and 82 per cent for upper class staff.

* Only 55 per cent of lower-class workers felt they were given the same opportunities as others with the same abilities or experience.

* More than 40 per cent of lower-class workers reported personal experiencing workplace discrimination or harassment compared to 22 per cent of the middle class and 26 per cent of the upper class.

* Seventeen per cent of lower-class workers reported being ignored compared to just six per cent of middle class workers.

* Twenty per cent of lower-class workers said they were more likely to be left out of workplace social gatherings compared to six per cent of the middle class and seven per cent of the higher class.