Experiments. Attitudes. The Future of Women at Work.
About the Policy Lab
Our Lab has 3 main areas of focus
1. We use survey experiments to understand public opinion toward some of society’s most pressing public policy issues such as fake news, political trust and artificial intelligence
2. We do research on the Future of Women at Work to identify the barriers to achieving gender equality and inclusivity and to develop evidence-based best practice for the workplace
3. We examine the attitudes of Australians in relation to political and institutional trust, political outlooks and how these relate to attitudes towards a range of policy and societal issues
We provide new evidence based on original data which helps governments and other public bodies develop creative solutions to pressing policy problems.
Associate Professor Aaron Martin – Co-director
Aaron Martin is Co-director of The Policy Lab. Educated at the ANU, the Institute of Political Studies (Paris), Stanford University and the University of Melbourne, Aaron returned to the University of Melbourne as Lecturer (now Associate Professor) in Political Science Research Methods in 2010. Aaron’s research focuses on using survey experiments to understand public opinion towards important policy issues like automation, trust in news stories and behavioural public policy. He is the author of Young People and Politics: Political Engagement in the Anglo-American Democracies (Routledge) and, with Keith Dowding (ANU), Policy Agendas in Australia (Palgrave). Aaron is a member of the Steering Committee for Vote Compass and in 2014 was a Visiting Researcher at McGill and Princeton. More information...
Associate Professor Leah Ruppanner – Co-director
Leah Ruppanner is Associate Professor of Sociology and Co-director of The Policy Lab. Leah is a quantitative methodologist with expertise in: gender, family and family policies. Her research focuses on the impact of gender equality and family policy on individuals’ lives through analysis of large cross-national data. Her research is published in a range of top tier sociology journals, and has also been featured in Slate, the Guardian and the Age. Leah has received grants including the Australian Research Council Discover Early Career Researcher Award and is a Research Fellow at the ARC Centre for Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course. More information...
Dr Erik Baekkeskov
Erik Baekkeskov is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Political Science. His research seeks to answer why we get the policies we get through comparative studies of national policies and politics. In the past several years, Erik has studied infectious disease policies, and responses to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic in particular. He has also studied government reform processes leading to public-private partnerships. Erik’s work has been published in journals such as Governance, Disaster Prevention and Management, Journal of European Public Policy, Policy Sciences, and Public Administration. More information...
Dr Azad Bali
Azad Bali is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the Australian National University. Bali’s research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of policy design, public finance, and social policy in Asia. His current projects focus on the design of health systems, financing age-related spending, and policy capacity. Bali’s research has been published in Public Policy and Administration, Social Policy and Administration, Australian Journal of Public Administration amongst others. His forthcoming co-authored book, The Governance of Healthcare and Policy in Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2019) studies the design of health systems across eleven of Asia’s most vibrant economies. Bali also serves on the editorial team of Policy Design & Practice.
Associate Professor Andrea Carson
Andrea Carson is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy at La Trobe University. Her work examines changes in the news media – with a focus on investigative journalism – on political communication, and the role of digital technologies in both. She has done extensive research on journalism, Australian politics, party representation and voter behaviour, election campaigns and beyond. Andrea holds a PhD in Political Science and an MA in International Politics from the University of Melbourne. She has taught courses on political communication, news media and politics and campaigns and elections at the University of Melbourne. She has worked previously as a print journalist, radio and TV producer and broadcaster.
Dr Brendan Churchill
Brendan Churchill is a Research Fellow in Sociology in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Prior to joining Melbourne, he was a Research Fellow at the Institute of Social Change and Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Tasmania. Brendan is sociologist researching in the ares of work and employment, family, youth and gender. His primary research program focuses on work and employment from a number of different perspective: young people, women and families and the future of work, including the gig economy. He has been researching and writing about issues to do with youth (un)employment in Australia and the on-going impact of economic and technological disruption on their futures for over a decade. More information...
Professor Mark Considine
Mark Considine is the Provost of the University of Melbourne. His research areas include governance studies, comparative social policy, employment services, public sector reform, local development, and organisational sociology. Mark is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (Victoria) and the Australian Academy of Social Sciences. He has published award-winning journal articles and numerous books, most recently Welfare to Work: Street-Level Governance in Australia, the UK, and the Netherlands. Mark has also been associated with governments and the community sector in the implementation of a number of recent projects and organisational reviews. More information...
Professor Lyn Craig
Lyn Craig is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy in the School of Social and Political Sciences. She researches the contemporary family, work and social change, with emphasis on gender equity and time demands of employment, family care and social reproduction; youth, population ageing and generational equity; and comparative family and social policy. Before joining the University of Melbourne in March 2017, Lyn was Scientia Professor and Director of the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW Sydney. She is an Affiliate of the Centre for Time Use Research at Oxford University and an elected Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. More information...
Professor Belinda Hewitt
Belinda Hewitt is an Professor in Sociology in the School of Social and Political Sciences. Belinda’s broad research interests are gender differences in the experiences of family, work and health. Her research program has investigated: mothers’ workforce participation, paid and unpaid labour in households, the factors that influence change over the family life course and the consequences of those changes for family members. Her research program has a strong focus on developing policy-relevant evidence. She is currently on a Future Fellowship examining the links between the family life course, health and wellbeing. More information...
Professor Yoshi Kashima
Yoshi Kashima is Professor of Psychology in the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences. He studies micro-macro dynamics about how culture is formed, maintained, and transformed, using a variety of research tools including experimentation, surveys, archival research, and mathematical modelling. He has co-edited six books, and written more than 180 journal articles and book chapters, on the topics including self and identity, stereotypes, culture of sustainability, and behaviour and culture change processes. He is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. He served as the President of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology from 2014 to 2016. More information...
Professor Jenny Lewis
Jenny M. Lewis is Professor of Public Policy in the School of Social and Political Sciences. Jenny is particularly interested in: expertise and the policy process; policy design; public sector innovation; and performance measurement. She has published widely in international journals, is the author of six books, and has been awarded American, European and Australian prizes for her research. Jenny has led numerous research projects and was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow for 2013-16. She is the President of the International Research Society for Public Management Research (IRSPM). More information...
Dr Gosia Mikolajczak
Dr Gosia Mikolajczak is a Research Fellow at the Policy Lab. Her research focuses on gender discrimination, ideology, wellbeing, and applications of different quantitative research methods in social research. She is currently working on the ARC Discovery project ‘Understanding political debate and policy decisions using big data’. She has published in various journals including Sex Roles, British Journal of Social Psychology, and BMC Public Health. Gosia received her PhD degree in Social Psychology from University of Warsaw (2016). Prior to joining the Policy Lab, she worked on a range of projects at the Centre for Ethical Leadership (UoM), Department of Management and Marketing (UoM), and the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (La Trobe University). More information...
Associate Professor Irma Mooi-Reci
Irma Mooi-Reci studies employment instability and its implications for labour market outcomes. Her research agenda encompasses three main areas: (1) the socioeconomic consequences of unemployment, joblessness and casual employment; (2) the intergenerational consequences of joblessness; (3) application and innovation of quantitative methods for panel data. She is adjunct senior research fellow of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research; associate of the Centre for Vocational and Educational Pathways at the University of Melbourne; and a fellow of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course where she is involved in the data reference group that aims to improve the Big Data potential in Australia. More information...
Dr Signe Ravn
Dr Signe Ravn is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Social and Political Sciences. Signe’s research is based in the sociology of youth with a particular focus on risk, gender, disadvantaged youth, and processes of marginalisation in youth transitions to adulthood. She is interested in how young people in complex and disadvantaged situations navigate their present and imagine their futures. Signe’s research also contributes to the further development of qualitative research methods. She has extensive experience with conducting interviews and focus groups and works with visual and creative methods such as photo elicitation, life charts and drawings in her research. More information...
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The Worsening of Australian Women’s Experiences under COVID-19: A Crisis for Victoria’s Future
Associate Professor Andrea Carson, Associate Professor Leah Ruppanner and Dr Shaun Ratcliff
COVID-19 has placed unparallelled challenges on individuals, families, employers and governments. As global cases have climbed, governments have responded by closing economies and restricting the movement of individuals to stop the spread of the deadly pathogen. The implications of these closures are uniquely gendered at both home and work.
To better understand how Australians are coping under the pandemic, we conducted two surveys during heightened periods of social movement restrictions. The first was under the first lockdown (May 2020) to understand their work, family and health experiences during these unprecedented times. The second was during the height of the Stage four lockdowns in Victoria (September 2020). Our survey design allowed us to follow many Australians over these two time periods to document changes in their work, family and health experiences.
Australian women experienced higher economic vulnerability in May 2020 which has compounded for Victorian women in September 2020. Women continue to carry a larger housework and childcare load with the greatest disadvantage amongst Victorian women.Women’s health has been severely impacted by the pandemic with Victorian women particularly vulnerable to poor health, anxiety and restless sleep.
Policy Lab Intern Reports: The Future of Women at Work
The following five reports were completed by Policy Lab Interns in 2020 covering pressing topics for the future of women and work, including Artificial Intelligence, flexible work and workforce participation.
- Sheilla Njoto. Gendered Bots? Bias in the use of Artificial Intelligence in Recruitment (1.7Mb pdf) 2020
- Amrita Chanda. Understanding flexible work arrangement and its need in India: Policy intervention as a step towards holistic work life balance (700kb pdf) 2020
- Mary Ntalianis. Gender and sexual orientation as determinants of economic outcomes for queer women: A public policy response (570kb pdf) 2020
- Olivia Quan. New Opportunities for Women in the Workforce in the age of AI and Automation (475kb pdf) 2020
- Wendy Ojwang. An evaluation of progress made towards implementation by the Australian Government of “Towards 2025: An Australian Government’s Strategy to Boost Women’s Workforce Participation” (750kb pdf) 2020
Understanding political debate and policy decisions using big data (ARC Discovery)
Professor Jenny Lewis, Professor Andrew Turpin, Dr Erik Baekkeskov, Dr Andrea Carson and Dr Roberto Foa
This project aims to empirically test a novel framework for analysing the relationship between political debates and policy decisions. Using digital sources and computational modelling approaches, the project team plans to investigate three specific issues to test this framework. These issues, all drawn from different policy sectors, will be examined as a series of debates (involving actors, framing and forums) linked to specific decisions, over the last two decades. It aims to produce conclusions about how debates shape policy decisions for different issues, thus leading to recommendations for how the link between political debates and policy decisions can be improved in Australia and elsewhere, providing potential benefits for politics and policy-making.
This project will improve our understanding of how political debates become policy decisions, using digital sources and computational approaches. Its main benefit will be recommendations on how to improve the link from debate to policy decisions. It will also provide guidance on how political debates can be improved for specific policy issues. Finally, it will generate large datasets that will be made available for other researchers to use in studying how to improve the policy-making process.
Race to the top: using experiments to understand gender bias against female politicians (Melbourne School of Government and The Policy Lab)
Dr Andrea Carson, Professor Jenny Lewis and Dr Leah Ruppanner
Although women account for half of the Australian population, women’s political representation is low. Gender balance in political representation is an important goal of governments yet today in Australia only 32% of all parliamentary and 29% of the House of Representative seats are held by women (Parliament of Australia, 2017). While political scientists have investigated political attitudes of female politicians, less is known how internalised gender biases structure voters’ attitudes towards female politicians. This form of discrimination is damaging yet difficult to measure as individuals may be unaware of their internalised bias.
To redress this methodological challenge, this study will apply experimental methods of randomly assigning respondents to a vignette that manipulates the politician’s gender, we will address the research question: do Australians perceive female politicians as less competent and capable in their jobs and, if so, what are the mechanisms through which this discriminatory bias is exhibited? Ultimately, this experimental survey design will allow us to measure gendered bias in citizens' attitudes towards female politicians. This project is co-funded by the Melbourne School of Government (MSoG).
Enlisting the support of trusted sources to tackle policy problems: the case of anti-microbial resistance
Dr Aaron Martin, Dr Erik Baekkeskov, Dr Tim Gravelle and Professor Jenny Lewis
What effect do trusted sources have on support for policy reforms? At a time when trust in government is declining and social problems are becoming more complex it is likely that government will have to enlist the support of representatives of more trusted institutions to secure support for policy reforms. This research tests to what extent trusted sources can alter attitudes towards regulating the use of antibiotics through the use of survey experiment.
World Values Survey – Indonesia (University of Melbourne)
Dr Roberto Foa, Dr Tim Gravelle and Dr Erik Baekkeskov
Indonesia has emerged as the largest experiment in democratic governance in the Islamic world. How do contemporary Indonesians view democratic institutions, and alternatives to them? How do beliefs vary across this large and highly diverse polity? How engaged are Indonesians in civil society networks? Are they influenced by religious or other beliefs, or by historical traditions and trends? This project will collect critical cross-sectional and longitudinal information on Indonesians’ attitudes to social, cultural, and political issues, by implementing the World Values Survey (WVS). This project has been awarded strategic research initiative funding from the University of Melbourne.
Public sector innovation labs in Australia and New Zealand (Australia and New Zealand School of Government and The Policy Lab)
Professor Jenny Lewis, Dr Emma Blomkamp and Dr Michael McGann
Innovation labs, units and teams are becoming increasingly important within the public sector. They are being established to drive innovation and experimentation in public policy and service design – through, for example, adopting more collaborative approaches and employing methods and skills that may not be available in other public sector organisations. In order to better understand the key characteristics of these units and the different policy areas and approaches they are working on, The Policy Lab at the University of Melbourne is conducting the first large-scale survey of public sector innovation units in Australia and New Zealand, followed by several in-depth case studies. This work is supported by an Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) research grant. More information....
States of Change evaluation (Department of Premier and Cabinet, Victoria)
Professor Jenny Lewis and Dr Aleks Deejay
The Victorian State Government is working with Nesta, the UK-based innovation foundation, and seven other jurisdictions from around the world, in a world-first initiative called States of Change. This learning collective is creating a project-based curriculum to support innovation in government. The Policy Lab is partnering with Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet to evaluate the initiative and act as a ‘critical friend’.
The evaluation aims to provide insights into the level of change achieved and to understand which aspects of the initiative are having the biggest impact on innovation learning and capacity development.
Enhancing sleep and well-being in working families (ARC Discovery)
Dr Leah Ruppanner, Associate Professor Belinda Hewitt and David Maume (University of Cincinnati)
Sleep is essential for economic productivity, physical health and emotional well-being. This project aims to investigate the role of sleep on individuals’ health by measuring Australians’ sleep patterns relative to work and family demands. This project expects to generate new knowledge in the sociology of sleep and clear policy recommendations, using innovative data collection that brings together cross-national, nationally representative, longitudinal and physiological data on Australians’ sleep patterns. The results of this detailed inquiry will provide knowledge for integration into policy on health, quality of life and public policy.
From entitlement to experiment: the new governance of welfare to work (ARC Linkage)
Professor Jenny Lewis, Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan and Professor Mark Considine
This major research project investigates the important organisational dynamics that are generating major changes to contemporary welfare states. The first of these changes is the shift towards governance driven by performance; a world of metadata matched by a new economy of incentives. The second is experimentation, new markets and the problematic way changes ‘from above’ seek to stimulate real service delivery change at street level. This increasingly involves international agencies and global knowledge transfer.
The research project aims to model and explain these dynamics using a multidimensional framework and a mix of surveys and field visits, to assist agencies wishing to innovate in order to help those most in need. More information....
The intergenerational transmission of joblessness (ARC Discovery)
Dr Irma Mooi-Reci, Tim Liao and Professor Mark Wooden
The project aims to unpack the mechanisms, channels and factors that drive joblessness from one generation to the next in Australia and across Europe, Asia and the United States. By creating a rich longitudinal dataset on families across the selected countries, it plans to challenge existing theories by asking whether aspects of family’s work-welfare trajectories, values and dynamics play out differently across multiple nations, over time and in different labour market, institutional and family contexts.
Project results may provide evidence-based knowledge for the development of effective interventions to avert the persistence of joblessness across generations.
Improving Indigenous health and wellbeing (ARC Linkage)
Associate Professor Belinda Hewitt, Professor Maggie Walter (University of Tasmania) and Fiona Skelton (Department of Social Services)
This project aims to reduce Indigenous health inequalities, a major social and economic problem, by improving the policy relevant evidence base on the determinants of Indigenous health and wellbeing. This project compares the impact of the family life course on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous and non-Indigenous mothers and children.
The project uses survey data that follows them over time to:
- Identify family structures that enhance or harm health and wellbeing; and
- Track changes in health and wellbeing before, during and after family transitions (ie births, relationship changes)
Understanding causes of trust through political experiments (ARC DECRA)
Dr Aaron Martin
This project intends to improve our understanding of the drivers of political trust and point to ways that political trust could be improved. Despite the importance of political trust to the functioning of democratic systems, we have no experimental data on what the causes of political trust are, and political trust has been said to have reached crisis levels in many democracies.
By integrating existing survey data with experiments in five established democracies, this project aims to identify the causes of political trust and how these differ by country, which may inform policies addressing challenges such as ageing populations and environmental change.
Networked individualism: a comparative study of social networks, digital media, international ties and privacy (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada)
Dr Barbara Barbosa Neves, Professor Brent Berry and Professor Barry Wellman (University of Toronto)
Is community and family life withering as some scholars and popular media contend? Or is it transforming – and even flourishing – now? This project uses contemporary and long term evidence collected in English Canada and from a variety of developed countries to evaluate this debate, giving special attention to the interplay of Information and Communication Technologies (internet + mobile) with community and social capital.
Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) 2015-2018, this project brings together an international team of social scientists and media scholars, and is coordinated by Principal Investigators Professor Brent Berry and Professor Barry Wellman (University of Toronto).
Associate Professor Aaron Martin, Dr Gosia MikołajczakResearch Memo #3
Associate Professor Aaron Martin, Dr Erik BaekkeskovResearch Memo #2
Associate Professor Aaron Martin, Dr Erik Baekkeskov, Associate Professor Andrea Carson, Dr Gosia MikolajczakResearch Memo #1
Auckland Co-Design Lab
The Auckland Co-Design Lab has been established to provide a neutral space to explore the case for change using collective impact, co-design and other innovative approaches to complex social issues. Auckland Co-Design Lab is a case study partner on the public sector innovation labs research project.
Australia and New Zealand School of Government
The Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) is a global leader in education and government-focused research relevant to the public sector. ANZSOG is funding the public sector innovation labs research project.
Australia Research Council
The Australia Research Council is an independent Commonwealth entity that plays an important role in the provision of Government support for research in Australia. Many of the Policy Lab research projects have received funding from the National Competitive Grants Program.
Department of Premier and Cabinet - Victoria
The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) works for the people of Victoria by helping the government achieve its strategic objectives. The Public Sector Innovation Branch at DPC has engaged The Policy Lab to evaluate States of Change, and is a case study partner on the public sector innovation labs research project.
Jobs Australia (JA) is the national peak body for nonprofit organisations that assist unemployed people into work. Jobs Australia is a key partner on the Policy Lab's Employment services research project.
Melbourne School of Government
The mission of Melbourne School of Government (MSOG) is to inspire and equip governments, businesses, social partners and individuals to meet the challenges of contemporary governance. MSOG is co-funding the Policy Lab's 'Race to the Top' experiment.
National Employment Services Association
The National Employment Services Association (NESA) is Australia's peak employment services body. NESA is a key partner on the Policy Lab's Employment services research project.
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) is Canada's federal research funding agency that promotes and supports research in the humanities and social sciences. The SSHRC is funding Policy Lab researcher Barbara Barbosa Neves' project on social networks, digital media, international ties and privacy.
The Australian Centre for Social Innovation
The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) partners with government, not-for-profits, philanthropy and business to make practical progress that leads to better lives. TACSI is a case study partner on the public sector innovation labs research project.
Westgate Community Initiatives Group
Westgate Community Initiatives Group (WCIG) delivers innovative and high quality employment services for people in Melbourne's western regions who experience the greatest levels of disadvantage. WCIG is a key partner on the Policy Lab's Employment services research project.