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Economic analysis, ideology and the public sphere: insights from Australia’s equal remuneration hearings

Siobhan Austen () and Therese Jefferson ()

Cambridge Journal of Economics, 2015, vol. 39, issue 2, 405-419

Abstract: The article explores contrasting economic analyses of gender and wages in Australia’s social and community sector as important and relevant examples of specific types of ideology in economics. The analyses were submitted as evidence in an equal remuneration case brought before Australia’s key industrial tribunal, Fair Work Australia. We argue that mathematical methods and specialist techniques in economic analysis can deflect attention from important assumptions and ideological commitments underlying economic analyses of gendered patterns of work and pay. However, debate in the public sphere represents an opportunity to explain and discuss these methods and assumptions to better understand their social and policy implications. We conclude that there are advantages to be gained from discussing and scrutinising the assumptions of economic analysis with people who are knowledgeable about labour markets but non-specialist in terms of applying economic theory, such as union officials, union members, employer groups and representatives and industrial tribunals. These advantages include improved policy decisions and recognition of the need for pluralism in economic research.

Date: 2015
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