Gender is part of a person's social and personal identity. It refers to each person's deeply felt internal and individual identity, and the way a person presents and is recognised within the community. Although the terms sex and gender are often used interchangeably, they are separate concepts and may be important for different types of statistics. Sex refers to a person's biological sex and associated physical characteristics. Gender refers to the way a person self-identifies and presents themselves to the community via their name, outward appearance, mannerisms, and dress, therefore, a person's sex is not necessarily consistent with their gender.
Gender is a complex social phenomenon that shapes an individual’s sense of personal identity and their interactions with others. It also shapes the sets of social relations embedded in institutions such as the family, workplace, school, hospital, criminal justice system, and the government. The social significance attached to being female or male and the use of gender as a component of social structures varies between societies and over time (Du Plessis, 1994).
Gender analysis and gender main-streaming (that is, embedding the collection and output of data by gender) is of ongoing and increasing interest for researchers, policy makers, business and public alike, as we seek to understand the gender gaps in key social areas, for example, health, education, working arrangements and caring arrangements.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN MEASUREMENT ISSUES?
The ABS does not currently collect information on gender. Mindful of the recommendations in this area by the Australian Government's Attorney-General's Department, it is evaluating the need for gender-based statistics and the practical issues associated with the collection of such information. The ABS has also commenced a program of work to develop a Gender statistical standard to complement the Attorney-General's Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender. It is expected that this standard will be completed by late 2015 and be available to assist agencies to collect gender information on a consistent basis.
The ABS provides 'Male' and 'Female' response options on its survey forms, although the ABS Sex Standard includes guidelines for recording an individual's sex as 'Intersex or Indeterminate' if respondents volunteer this information. Data quality considerations, respondent's reporting practices, confidentiality requirements, and the capacity to publish aggregates for the ‘Intersex or Indeterminate’ category are reasons why this category is currently excluded from survey forms (ABS response to Sex and Gender Guidelines).
The Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender standardise the evidence required for a person to establish or change their sex or gender in personal records held by Australian Government departments and agencies. The guidelines apply to all Australian Government departments and agencies that maintain personal records (including employee records) and/or collect sex and/or gender information.
To complement the Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, the ABS is currently reviewing the Sex Standard and evaluating the need for gender-based statistics and the practical issues associated with the collection of such information. The standard seeks to achieve consistency across all data sources in terminology, data collection procedures and definitions of categories associated with human sexes, and to achieve clarity with respect to the small number of cases where a person's sex cannot be categorised as Male or Female or may change over time.
Attorney-General's Department, Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender - The Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender standardise the evidence required for a person to establish or change their sex or gender in personal records held by Australian Government departments and agencies.
The University of Adelaide, Gender Indicators Online - Gender sensitive indicators support the development and evaluation of policies and programs designed to achieve greater gender equity in the context of gender sensitive analysis and gender main-streaming initiatives of policy/programs and budgets.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Gender equality and development, Gender Indicators: What, Why and How? - This brief focuses on the use of gender indicators as a way of measuring change. It asks: what are indicators, and why should we develop gender indicators? It also addresses the often political issue of what we should be measuring, providing some broad principles that can be considered in making these decisions, as well as some questions donors can ask themselves when they are developing gender indicators. The brief also offers examples of existing indicators – noting that they always need to be adapted to specific contexts.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, ABS Response to Sex and Gender Guidelines - ABS response to the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender. This paper addresses how the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender relate to the ABS and its statistical information.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015, Gender Indicators, Australia, Feb 2015 (cat. no. 4125.0) - This issue of Gender Indicators, Australia, includes data on a range of indicators of social interest to men and women, in the domains of Economic Security, Education, Health, Safety and justice, Work and family balance, and Democracy, governance and citizenship.