3E Accounting Interview on 88.3 Jia FM About National Database
In Norway, personal income is not a secret. Norwegians’ personal data on salaries, property, and taxes are entered into the national database and accessible to the public. On 12 August 2019, 88.3 Jia FM interviewed 3E Accounting founder Lawrence Chai and academic, Professor Walter Theseira on the merits and challenges to implement such a national database.
Lawrence believed that salary transparency can help address unfair salary conditions, be it gender pay gap, or salary discrepancy between locals and foreigners. He added that, “openness, transparency and fairness of data may bring about better employment prospects for society.” Employers would also more likely take steps to address this issue in the interest of talent retention.
With an accurate national database, citizens can help the authorities by flagging out potential tax evasion offences. It can help companies run due diligence on salary information, for example, a company can find out what the candidate’s last drawn salary was in his or her last job. Lawrence highlighted another benefit – the database will enable charities to identify low-income and at-risk groups easily and provide them with immediate and appropriate assistance.
The Challenges to Implement Such a National Database
The main challenges to implementation are concerns about data privacy and data protection. Lawrence emphasized that publication of such data is subject to certain risks, such as unintended disclosure and circulation of personal data, criminal activity, social stigma and misunderstanding. Professor Walter Theseira suggested using data trend charts to avoid personal data disclosure. This way, such data could be used by third parties for research purposes, while ensuring that protection of personal data remains of utmost importance.
In conclusion, Lawrence suggested an additional safeguard that the database is set such that individuals would be notified of who had searched their data for greater transparency and accountability.