04 Workforce profile

Last updated: 03 May 2012

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This chapter explores time series demographic and structural patterns for Australian Public Service (APS) employees—those employed under the Public Service Act 1999 (the PS Act)—at June 2011, and over the past 15 years.1 The main source of data for the chapter is the APS Employment Database (APSED), which the Commission maintains. The chapter focuses on overall trends in employment, including size, employment status, sex, classification, age, workforce agility and staff movements.

Data in this chapter refers to the APS at 30 June 2011. Machinery-of-government changes after that date will be reflected in the 2011–12 State of the Service report. In particular, Centrelink and Medicare Australia became part of the Department of Human Services (DHS)2 from 1 July 2011.

APS employment trends

There were 166,495 APS employees at June 2011, compared with 164,482 at June 2010.
The total number of employees rose by 2,013 or 1.2%, the smallest increase in number and percentage terms since 2003–04.

The agencies with the largest growth in 2010–11 were the Department of Defence (Defence) which grew by 1,057 or 4.9%, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), which grew by 889 or 12.7%, and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which grew by 876 or 3.6%. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) grew by 460
or 67.6%, but this growth was due, in part, to machinery-of-government changes following the August 2010 election.

Smaller agencies with large proportional increases included the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (17 or 63.0%), the Commission (88 or 36.1%) also due, in part, to machinery-of-government changes, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (7 or 35.0%) and the National Water Commission (18 or 32.1%).

The largest decreases in total staff numbers were in Centrelink (2,088 or 7.6%) and Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (584 or 9.6%).

Coverage changes

During 2010–11, the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government was established, with staff from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, and the Attorney General’s Department. Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) was established as a separate agency, previously being part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner was abolished as an agency and its staff moved to the newly created Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The Arts function moved from the then Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts to PMC, and the Housing Affordability function moved from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts which was renamed the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. There were also a number of other smaller movements of functions and staff between agencies.

There were also 255 employees who moved into coverage of the PS Act during the year—169 to the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, 56 to Medicare Australia, 23 to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and 7 to Defence. There were no movements out of coverage by the PS Act during 2010–11.

Figure 4.1 shows the change in total APS staff numbers for the past 20 years. The adjusted line takes account of coverage changes in the APS during each period, by adjusting the total for the number of employees performing those functions when the function moved into or out of coverage of the PS Act. Adjusted for coverage changes, the increase in APS employment during 2010–11 was 1.1%.

Figure 4.1 APS employees, 1992 to 2011

Figure 4.1 shows the total number of APS employees from 1992 to 2011, as well as the number of employees when the size is adjusted for changes in coverage of the Public Service Act 1999. There was a period of decline between 1993 and 2000, followed by some growth in recent years. Growth has slowed in the past four years.
Source: APSED

Ongoing and non-ongoing employees

The increase in total employment this year was due entirely to growth in ongoing employment, with a slight drop in non-ongoing employment, in both the number and proportion of total employment.

Ongoing employment

At June 2011, there were 153,315 ongoing employees in the APS, an increase of 2,373 or 1.6% on the previous year. This growth continued the trend that has been evident since 1999–00, however the growth rate of 1.6% was less than half the average annual growth rate over this period (3.5%).

The largest increases in ongoing employment were in the ATO (941 or 4.4%), Defence (920 or 4.4%) and DIAC (783 or 11.9%). Smaller agencies with large proportional increases in ongoing employment were the Australian Crime Commission (61 or 12.5%) and the Commonwealth Ombudsman (23 or 15.3%).

The largest decreases in ongoing employment were in Centrelink (1,334 or 5.1%), DEEWR (467 or 8.1%) and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs) (182 or 3.2%).

Non-ongoing employment

The number of non-ongoing employees fell this year to 13,180 at June 2011—a drop of 360 or 2.7%. This contrasted with an increase in non-ongoing employment of 17.6% the previous year. Despite the drop from June 2010, the number of non-ongoing employees is still high compared with most of the previous decade. At June 2011, non-ongoing employees accounted for 7.9% of total employment.

Figure 4.2 shows how non-ongoing employment has changed, as a proportion of total employment, over the past 15 years. Between 1999 and 2004 there was a steady decline in the use of non-ongoing employment. Since then, the proportion has plateaued at around 8%. The representation rate for women was higher than that for men over the whole period, although the gap between men and women narrowed in the past five years. At June 2011, 59.7% of non-ongoing employees were women, compared with 57.4% of ongoing employees.

Figure 4.2 Non-ongoing employees as a proportion of total employees, 1997 to 2011

Figure 4.2 shows non-ongoing employees as a proportion of total employees, from 1997 to 2011, as a whole and by sex. Over the period, all proportions have fallen. Women represent a higher proportion of non-ongoing employment than do men.
Source: APSED

Each year there are large shifts in the use of non-ongoing employment in individual agencies, suggesting that agencies are using non-ongoing employment to deal with peaks and troughs in work demands. Smaller agencies are more likely to rely on the use of non-ongoing employees. At June 2011, 21 agencies had at least one-quarter of their employees engaged on a non-ongoing basis—10 of these were small agencies and the others were medium-sized.

This year, the largest decreases in non-ongoing employment were in Centrelink (754 or 53.5%), DEEWR (117 or 40.9%) and DHS (111 or 26.0%). Although there was an overall drop in non-ongoing employment, some agencies increased their number of non-ongoing employees during the year. The largest increases were in Defence (137 or 24.8%), the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (119 or 58.6%) and DIAC (106 or 23.2%).

Agencies with the largest number of non-ongoing employees at June 2011 were the ATO (2,751 or 11.0%), Defence (689 or 3.1%) and Centrelink (656 or 2.6%). The number of non-ongoing employees in Centrelink was the lowest it has been since June 2004.

Non-ongoing employees can be engaged in three different categories: specified term, specified task, or for duties that are irregular or intermittent. At June 2011, almost two-thirds (65.1%) were engaged for a specified term, 4.2% for a specified task and 30.6% for irregular or intermittent duties. There is considerable variation in agencies’ use of these categories. More than one-quarter of agencies engage all their non-ongoing employees as specified term. In contrast, the ATO engages most of its non-ongoing employees (82.9%) for irregular or intermittent duties.

Figure 4.3 shows that the classification profile of non-ongoing employees is concentrated at lower levels. At June 2011, 47.0% of APS 1–2 employees were non-ongoing, compared with only 3.7% of Executive Level (EL) employees and 3.4% of Senior Executive Service (SES) employees. In contrast, 11.3% of SES Band 3s were non-ongoing.

Figure 4.3 Non-ongoing employees as a proportion of total employees by classification, June 2011

Figure 4.3 shows the proportion of employees at each classification that are engaged as non-ongoing employees at June 2011. It shows that, in general, the representation of non-ongoing employees is lower at higher classifications (over 60 per cent for APS 1 and less than five per cent for EL 2), but then rises again at SES Band 3.
Source: APSED

As well as being concentrated at lower classification, non-ongoing employees also have a younger age profile than ongoing employees. At June 2011, 22.1% of non-ongoing employees were aged less than 25 years, compared with only 3.9% of ongoing employees. Older employees (those aged 55 years and over) are also slightly more likely to be engaged on a non-ongoing basis—9.6% of employees in this age group were employed on a non-ongoing basis at June 2011, compared with the APS average of 7.9%. Many in this age group have also had previous experience as ongoing employees, and have chosen to return to the APS, presumably to supplement their retirement income and/or to remain actively engaged with the workforce. See ‘Prior service in the APS’ for a discussion of re-engagement and prior service for ongoing employees.

Male and female employment

The long-term growth in representation of women in the APS may have plateaued. During 2010–11, the total number of women increased by 0.9%—from 94,991 to 95,875—while the number of men increased by 1.6%—from 69,491 to 70,620. Despite this, the APS is still quite a feminised workforce; women account for a majority of APS employees—57.4% of ongoing employment and 57.6% of total employment at June 2011. The drop in non-ongoing employment this year was entirely due to a drop in employment for women; indeed the number of non-ongoing men increased. This result reflects the sex profile of agencies that experienced large changes in non-ongoing employment—those that decreased had a higher proportion of female employees and those that increased had a higher proportion of male employees. Trends for total employment by sex are shown in Figure 4.4.

Figure 4.4 Total employees by sex, 1997 to 2011

Figure 4.4 shows that between 1997 and 2000, there was a decrease in the total number of employees, followed by a period of growth. This growth has slowed in the past four years. Women have outnumbered men since 1999.
Source: APSED

There is still considerable variation among agencies in the representation of men and women. Of agencies with at least 1,000 ongoing employees, Medicare Australia (79.8%) had the highest proportion of women, followed by DHS (75.2%). Large agencies with the highest proportion of men were the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) (74.9%) and Defence (60.0%).

Part-time employment

At June 2011, 13.8% of ongoing employees were working part-time, up slightly from 13.7% in 2010. The proportion has risen steadily over time, from 4.9% in 1997, and the rate of growth has been higher for women than for men. Women are still much more likely to work part-time, with 21.2% working part-time at June 2011, compared with 4.0% of men. The trends over the past 15 years are shown in Figure 4.5.

Figure 4.5 Proportion of ongoing employees working part-time by sex, 1997 to 2011

Figure 4.5 shows that from 1997 to 2011 the proportion of ongoing employees working part-time has increased for both men and women, with women’s representation being much higher than men’s.
Source: APSED

Centrelink is still the largest employer of part-time employees in the APS, with 5,848 or 27.6% of all part-time ongoing employees at June 2011. This group accounts for 23.8% of Centrelink’s ongoing workforce—almost twice the APS average. Other agencies with large numbers of part-time employees were ATO (2,360), DHS (1,488), Medicare Australia (1,272) and Defence (1,058).

Non-ongoing employees are much more likely to work part-time—38.8% of non-ongoing employees were working part-time at June 2011, compared with 13.8% of ongoing employees. The non-ongoing workforce has become increasingly part-time over the past decade—in 2002 the proportion was only 21.6%.

Part-time work by age

Part-time work for women is highest in the 30 to 44 age group, with 30.0% of ongoing women in this age group working part-time at June 2011; for men, the proportion was 4.5%. Part-time work is lowest in the under 30 age group, and the proportion rises again in the 60 years and over age group, particularly for men—6.8% of men in this age group were working part-time at June 2011 (Figure 4.6).

Figure 4.6 Proportion of ongoing employees working part-time by age group and sex, June 2011

Figure 4.6 shows that part-time employment peaks in the 30–44 age group for both men and women, with a second, smaller peak for employees aged 60 and over.
Source: APSED

Classification structures

To allow comparisons over time, substantive or base classification is used in this analysis—this excludes employees’ temporary assignment at a classification that is different to their base classification. Temporary assignment is discussed in detail later in this chapter.

Table 4.1 compares ongoing employee numbers by classification at June 1997, 2010 and 2011. In the past year, numbers rose at all classification levels except for APS 2, APS 3 and APS 4. The number of ongoing APS 1 employees increased by 121 or 14.2%. This was the first year of growth at this level since 2005–06. The increase was concentrated in the ATO (up by 145), offset by decreases in a number of other agencies. The other classifications which grew the most during 2010–11 were Trainees (up by 92 or 38.2%) and Graduate APS (up by 223 or 18.8%). Agencies that accounted for most of the increase in Trainees included the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (52 additional trainees), Centrelink (25), Customs (18) and Defence (17). The agencies that accounted for most of the increase in Graduate APS employees were the ATO (229), Defence (77) and DIAC (29). The overall growth in the number of Graduate APS employees was partly offset by a decrease in a number of agencies including Centrelink (80 fewer Graduate APS employees) and DEEWR (40 fewer). Some agencies engage trainees at the APS 1–2 levels rather than in trainee classifications, so variations over time may not necessarily reflect agencies’ use of trainees more broadly.

In recent years, the strongest growth in ongoing employment has been in the EL classifications. This year, the number of EL 1s grew by 6.1% and EL 2s by 3.9%, compared with growth of 1.6% for all ongoing employees. The number of ongoing SES grew by 86 or 3.3%.

The APS 6 classification is now the largest in the APS, with 20.8% of all ongoing employees being at that level. This is the first year there have been more employees substantively at the APS 6 classification than at APS 4. Using temporary assignment, APS 6 is also the largest.

Table 4.1: Ongoing employees by base classification, 1997, 2010 and 20113
Classification 1997 2010 2011 % change 2010 to 2011 % change 1997 to 2011
No. % No. % No. %
Source: APSED
APS 1 9,052 7.6 854 0.6 975 0.6 14.2 -89.2
APS 2 12,568 10.6 4,081 2.7 3,874 2.5 -5.1 -69.2
APS 3 26,345 22.1 20,843 13.8 19,840 12.9 -4.8 -24.7
APS 4 16,122 13.5 31,262 20.7 30,676 20.0 -1.9 90.3
APS 5 14,923 12.5 20,552 13.6 21,060 13.7 2.5 41.1
APS 6 17,987 15.1 30,879 20.5 31,953 20.8 3.5 77.6
EL 1 11,833 9.9 26,042 17.3 27,620 18.0 6.1 133.4
EL 2 7,036 5.9 12,391 8.2 12,878 8.4 3.9 83.0
SES 1 1,226 1.0 1,929 1.3 1,992 1.3 3.3 62.5
SES 2 315 0.3 552 0.4 569 0.4 3.1 80.6
SES 3 93 0.1 127 0.1 133 0.1 4.7 43.0
Trainee 762 0.6 241 0.2 333 0.2 38.2 -56.3
Graduate APS 611 0.5 1,189 0.8 1,412 0.9 18.8 131.1
Total 119,018 100.0 150,942 100.0 153,315 100.0 1.6 28.8

Over the past 15 years there has been a consistent and strong shift in the classification profile of the APS, with a decline in the proportion of employees at the APS 1–2 levels (down 15.0 percentage points) and increases at higher levels with APS 5–6 up 6.9 percentage points and ELs up 10.6 percentage points. As a proportion of all ongoing employees, the SES increased from 1.4% at June 1997 to 1.7% at June 2010 and to 1.8% at June 2011.4

The size of the Graduate APS cohort increased by 131.1% over the 15 years to June 2011, compared with overall growth in ongoing employment of 28.8%. The EL 1 cohort grew by 133.4%, and the SES by 64.9% over the same period.

One measure of a shifting classification profile is change over time in the ratio of EL 2 employees to those at lower classifications—Trainees and Graduate APS, APS 1–6 and EL 1s. Over the past 15 years, the ratio has fallen from 15.7 employees at lower classifications for each EL 2 to 10.7. As would be expected, there is considerable variation in this ratio among agencies, based on the type of work undertaken. At June 2011, in agencies with at least 1,000 ongoing employees, the ratio varied from 40.4 in Centrelink to 2.9 in ASIC.

This trend towards a higher classification profile at least partly reflects the changing nature of APS employment, with a more skilled workforce undertaking increasingly complex and difficult roles, as well as the outsourcing of a number of low-skill functions over time.

Women by classification

As was the case for the APS overall, the number of women increased at all levels except for APS 2, APS 3 and APS 4 this year. Women were over-represented in the growth at APS 1 level, and slightly under-represented in the growth at Trainee and Graduate APS classifications.

Figure 4.7 shows the proportion of men and women at selected classifications at June 2011. Women outnumber men at all classifications up to and including APS 6, as well as at the Graduate APS level. Fifteen years ago the cross-over point was APS 4. Women’s representation at EL and SES classifications has grown steadily over time, although the growth has slowed somewhat in the past few years.

Figure 4.7 Ongoing employees by base classification and sex, June 2011

Figure 4.7 shows representation for men and women at each classification level, at June 2011. It shows that women are over-represented at all levels up to and including APS 6, and then falls at higher classifications.
Source: APSED

Despite the long-term growth at higher classification, women continue to be under-represented at leadership levels. At June 2011, women comprised 38.2% of the SES (up from 37.1% in 2010), and 46.0% of EL employees (up from 45.6% in 2010). Within the SES, women’s representation increased both in number and as a proportion at all bands. Growth was particularly strong at SES 3 level, where women’s representation increased by 2.5 percentage points, from 26.8% at June 2010 to 29.3% at June 2011.

Figure 4.8 shows that women’s representation among promotions in 2010–11 was higher than their representation in both EL and SES cohorts, however they are under-represented in engagements, particularly in the EL group. The number of promotions is much higher than is the number of engagements for both EL and SES cohorts so, in the long term, relatively higher promotion rates for women will have more impact on their representation in these classifications than will lower engagement rates. For APS-level employees, engagement and promotion rates were very similar to their overall representation during 2010–11.

Figure 4.8 Ongoing employees—engagement and promotion rates for women, 2010–11

Figure 4.8 shows ongoing engagement and promotion rates for women in APS, EL and SES classification groups during 2010–11, and compares then with women’s overall representation in these classification groups. For APS classifications, the rates were all similar. For EL and SES classifications, the promotion rate was much higher than the engagement rate, and also somewhat higher than the representation rate.

The large agencies with the highest representation of women at higher classifications are the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (57.6% of SES and 61.2% of ELs at June 2011 were women), DEEWR (56.1% and 57.6%), Department of Health and Ageing (55.6% and 63.0%) and Medicare Australia (54.5% and 51.4%).

Large agencies with relatively low representation of women at higher classifications include ASIC (no women in the SES)5 and BoM (10.0% of SES and 20.4% of ELs). AusAID had the greatest disparity between women’s representation in the SES and in the EL feeder group; EL representation (59.7%) was well above the APS average, and SES representation (32.1%) was lower than the APS average. Three large agencies—Customs, Medicare Australia and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism—had representation of women in the SES that was higher than in the EL feeder group.

Temporary assignment

At June 2011, 15,386 or 10.0% of all ongoing employees were on temporary assignment, usually at a higher classification. Data on temporary assignment was not collected 15 years ago; however, analysis of data over the past 10 years shows that around 10% of employees have been on temporary assignment at one time.

As most employees on temporary assignment are performing duties at a higher classification, including it in an analysis of classification would skew the profile slightly away from lower classifications and towards higher classifications. For example, using base classification, there were 4,849 employees at APS 1–2 levels (3.2% of all ongoing employees), but this declined to 4,257 (2.8% of all ongoing employees) when including temporary assignment. Similarly, the size of the SES increased from 2,694 (1.8% of all ongoing employees) to 3,111 (2.0%) when including temporary assignment.

Women are more likely than men to be on temporary assignment—61.3% of those ongoing employees on temporary assignment at June 2011 were women, compared with their overall representation of 57.4%; however they are also more likely than men to be on temporary assignment at a lower level than their substantive or base level (54.7%), although this proportion is lower than their overall representation.

Workforce agility

Workforce agility is essential for ensuring that the APS can deliver the government’s reform agenda and has sufficient capability to provide advice to government and deliver programs efficiently. This section of the report assesses a range of workforce agilities, and how the APS measures up against them.

Mobility within the APS

Figure 4.9 shows how mobility6 between agencies has varied over the past 10 years, with periods of decline, stability and growth. During 2010–11, the overall mobility rate rose sharply, after falling over the previous three years: the promotion rate was 0.8%, and the transfer rate was 1.9%. The promotion rate rose slightly from the previous year, while there was a strong increase in the transfer rate. Over the 10-year period, the transfer rate has been about double the promotion rate, and there has been more variability in the transfer rate. The transfer rate was more than double the rate of 10 years before. Internal promotions, not shown in this figure, accounted for 92.7% of all promotions during 2010–11.

Figure 4.9 Ongoing employees—promotion and transfer rates between agencies, 2001–02 to 2010–11

Figure 4.9 shows the promotion and transfer rates between agencies for ongoing employees, from 2001–02 to 2010–11, as well as a combined total mobility rate over the period. Mobility has fluctuated over time, with a peak in 2006–07. Mobility declined in the following three years, before rising again in 2010–11.
Source: APSED

Mobility has consistently been higher for women than for men. During 2010–11, the mobility rate was 2.8% for women and 2.4% for men (up from 2.1% and 1.8% respectively during 2009–10).

In general, mobility between agencies is higher at higher classifications, particularly so for women in the SES. The mobility rate for SES was 6.2%, up slightly from 6.1% the previous year. Mobility for ELs was 4.4% (up from 3.6% in 2009–10) and 1.9% for APS classifications (up from 1.3%).

Educational qualifications

APSED data, while incomplete, shows that 57.4% of ongoing employees have graduate qualifications, up from 56.4% last year.7 The proportion is higher for men than for women (61.6% compared with 54.1%).

Over time, there has been a steady increase in the proportion of APS employees with graduate qualifications. During 2010–11, 70.6% of those engaged had graduate qualifications. This was a slight decrease on the previous year (72.0%) but considerably higher than the proportion 15 years ago (55.4% in 1996–97).

Length of service

The median length of service for ongoing employees in the APS at June 2011 was 8.5 years, up from 8.4 years at June 2010.

Figure 4.10 shows that the proportion of ongoing employees with fewer than five years’ service has dropped, reflecting the lower levels of engagement of new employees over the past few years. At June 2011, 30.7% of employees were in this group, compared with around 35% for much of the past decade. The proportion with 30 or more years’ service has remained steady over time, and was 4.5% at June 2011.

Figure 4.10 Ongoing employees—length of service 1997 to 2011

Figure 4.10 shows steady growth in the 5 and under 10 years length of service group since 2003, reflecting the strong growth in engagements during that period. The proportion of employees with fewer than five years’ service has remained relatively steady since 2003, although it has fallen for the past two years.
Source: APSED

Length at level

The median length at level8 for all ongoing employees was 4.0 years at June 2011, up from 3.7 years at June 2010. Fifteen years ago the median was 4.1 years for all ongoing employees.

For the SES, the median length at level was 4.4 years at June 2011, down from 5.7 years in 1997. For ELs, it was 4.3 years, down from 5.8 years.

Experience across agencies9

A number of reports, including the APS Reform Blueprint, have noted the importance of ensuring depth of experience and exposure at all classifications, particularly for the SES. One way of measuring breadth of experience is by looking at the number of agencies APS employees have worked in. Table 4.2 shows the number of agencies worked in by classification group at June 2011, and compares it with data for June 1997. The table shows a decline in the number of agencies worked in for all classification groups in the past 15 years.

As would be expected, the number of agencies worked in increases at higher classification levels—similar to mobility between agencies. Just more than one-third of current SES have worked in only one agency (35.7%) compared with 57.2% of ELs and 76.3% of APS-level employees. Almost one-quarter of SES (23.1%) have worked in four or more agencies, compared with 9.1% of ELs and 2.2% of APS-level employees.

Table 4.2: Ongoing employees—number of agencies worked in, 1997 and 2011
Source: APSED
Classification One agency 2 to 3 agencies 4 or more agencies
1997 2011 1997 2011 1997 2011
% % % % % %
APS 70.2 76.3 26.3 21.5 3.5 2.2
EL 49.9 57.2 36.7 33.7 13.4 9.1
SES 30.2 35.7 44.5 41.1 25.3 23.1
Total 66.7 70.8 27.9 24.9 5.4 4.4

Re-engagement and prior service in the APS

Of the 12,777 ongoing engagements during 2010–11, 1,735 (13.6%) had previously worked in the APS as ongoing employees. Of these, almost one-third (530) were re-engaged by the agency in which they had previously worked. The median length of service prior to re-engagement was 5.6 years.

A total of 5,014 ongoing engagements (39.2%) had previously worked as non-ongoing employees in the APS.10 Of these, 4,071 (81.2%) were engaged by the same agency in which they had been employed previously on a non-ongoing basis. This demonstrates that non-ongoing employment continues to be a major entry point into the APS. The median length of service as a non-ongoing employee prior to re-engagement as an ongoing employee during 2010–11 was 1.0 years. A total of 5,852 (45.8% of all ongoing engagements) had some prior experience in the APS—ongoing, non-ongoing or both.

Of the 13,180 non-ongoing employees at June 2011, 2,259 or 17.1% had previously worked in the APS as ongoing employees. The proportion with this prior experience increased with level up to EL 2, where 48.7% of non-ongoing employees had previously worked as ongoing employees. For non-ongoing SES, the proportion was 40.6%. Previous ongoing experience was also relatively high among older non-ongoing employees—47.9% of those in the 55 to 59 years age group and 48.5% of those in the 60 years and older age group having previously worked as ongoing employees.

Age profile

At June 2011, the median age of ongoing employees was 42 years (44 years for men and 41 years for women). This was unchanged from last year. In 1997 the median age was 39 years.

The largest group is aged between 45 and 49 years; however the strongest growth again this year was in the 60 years and over age group, which increased from 4.9% of all ongoing employees to 5.2% at June 2011. Indeed, the actual number of employees in the 45 to 49 years age group fell by 1.3% during the year.

Representation of young people (those aged less than 25 years) fell again this year. At June 2011, 3.9% of all ongoing employees were in this age group, down from 4.1% last year. This has been a consistent and steady trend over time—at June 1997, this age group accounted for 5.4% of all ongoing employees. The number of employees aged less than 20 rose slightly this year, from 177 at June 2010 to 191 at June 2011, but there was a drop in the number of employees in the 20 to 24 years age group. The combined age group reduced by 1.5%.

Older age groups had the largest proportional increase in ongoing employment this year, with the 60 years and over age group increasing by 8.1%—much higher than the APS average growth of 1.6%. Those aged 50 to 54 years increased by 2.5% and those aged 55 to 59 by 4.5%. The proportion of employees in the 55 years and over age group has grown strongly over time, increasing from 5.7% of all ongoing employees at June 1997, to 14.1% at June 2011. This strong growth in the number of older workers reflects the impact of policies to encourage older, often highly skilled workers to remain in the APS or return after taking early retirement—see analysis on prior service earlier in this chapter. It also reflects the removal of compulsory age-65 retirement in 1999, which has facilitated increased recruitment of older workers and a reduction in separation rates for this cohort. Further information on the age profile of engagements to, and separations from, the APS are found later in this chapter.

The shifting age profile of the APS, with increased representation of older workers and the concurrent drop in younger age groups over time is shown in Figure 4.11. This figure shows that the 55 years and over age group has increased by 8.4 percentage points since 1997, and the 35 to 44 years age group’s representation has decreased by 6.1 percentage points over the same period.

Figure 4.11 Ongoing employees—change in proportion by age group, 1997 to 2011

Figure 4.11 shows the change in age profile, between 1997 and 2011. It shows that, as a proportion of all ongoing employees, the under 25 years, 25–34 years and 35–44 years age groups have all fallen. The greatest change has been an increase in the 55 years and over age group.
Source: APSED

The ageing of the APS workforce raises significant workforce planning and succession management challenges for agencies. Employees in the 45 years and over age group, who will be eligible for retirement in the next 10 years, account for 43.7% of ongoing employees, up from 32.3% in 1997. The ageing of the cohort at EL and SES classifications over time is particularly evident: for example, at June 2011, 14.9% of ongoing ELs and 21.6% of ongoing SES were aged 55 years and over, compared with 6.4% and 13.0% in 1997. It is important that agencies implement appropriate strategies to manage for the future, by retaining or replacing these skills. Chapter 1 discusses these issues in more detail.

The APS has a more middle-aged age profile than does the Australian labour force, with a much lower proportion of young people, and relatively more employees in the 35 to 54 years age group. At June 2011, 57.5% of ongoing APS employees were in this age group, compared with 43.3% of the Australian labour force.11 Despite the continuing growth in older workers in the APS—those aged 60 years and over—they are still under-represented compared with the broader labour force. These patterns are shown in Figure 4.12.

Figure 4.12 Age profile of ongoing APS employees and Australian labour force, June 2011

Figure 4.12 shows age profile of ongoing APS employees, compared to the overall Australian labour force in 2011. The APS peaked in the 45–54 year age group, while for the overall labour force the peak was in the 25–34 year age group. The greatest disparity was in the under 25 years age group, where representation was much lower in the APS.
Source: APSED, ABS

While recruitment of young people has fallen over time, this does not seem to have strongly skewed the age profile of the APS. The APS is becoming more middle-aged rather than old. A challenge for agencies is to attract and retain skilled workers across all age ranges shown in Figure 4.12. Older workers are more likely to be working at higher classifications and, in general, have longer lengths of service, compared with the average. Agencies need to implement workforce planning and succession strategies to ensure future capability (Chapter 5 discusses these issues).

There is substantial variation in agencies’ age profiles. Agencies with a relatively high proportion of older employees may face more critical and different workforce planning and knowledge management issues than those with a younger age profile. Of the agencies with at least 1,000 ongoing employees at June 2011, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and BoM have the oldest age profiles, with 60.7% and 54.6% respectively aged 45 years and over: indeed, more than one-quarter of DVA’s ongoing employees (26.3%) are aged 55 years and over. In contrast, AusAID (28.0%) and the Attorney-General’s Department (28.4%) have the lowest proportion of employees aged 45 years and over.


Nearly 40% of APS employees (39.0% of ongoing employees and 38.9% of all employees) are located in Canberra. There has been a steady rise in this proportion for many years—in 1997, for example, 31.6% of ongoing employees were based in Canberra.

The proportion of employees located in Canberra increases at higher classifications. For example, at June 2011, 62.1% of all ongoing EL employees and 76.8% of all ongoing SES were in Canberra, compared with only 17.2% of APS 1–2 and 16.2% of all APS 3–4 employees. Table 4.3 shows the classification profile, by location, for ongoing employees at June 2011.

Table 4.3: Ongoing employees—proportion by classification and location, June 2011
Source: APSED
Classification ACT NSW Vic Qld SA WA Tas NT Overseas Total
% % % % % % % % % %
APS 1–2 17.2 26.9 18.8 15.3 9.0 6.5 2.7 3.3 0.3 100.0
APS 3–4 16.2 26.7 21.2 15.8 7.1 7.0 3.9 1.8 0.4 100.0
APS 5–6 42.2 16.9 15.6 10.3 6.3 4.5 2.0 1.7 0.7 100.0
EL 62.1 10.0 11.2 5.9 4.6 2.4 1.0 0.8 2.0 100.0
SES 76.8 5.5 6.4 2.3 1.4 1.0 0.5 0.6 5.5 100.0
Trainee/Graduate APS 64.6 10.3 11.3 6.8 2.0 3.6 0.5 0.7 0.2 100.0
Total 39.0 18.3 16.2 10.9 6.1 4.7 2.3 1.5 1.0 100.0

Although the APS is centred in Canberra, there is considerable variation among agencies in the level of employment inside and outside the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). At June 2011, 26 out of 97 agencies had all of their employees in the ACT, 10 had none in the ACT, and 26 had fewer than one-third in the ACT. Large agencies in the latter group included DVA (29.8%), Customs (28.1%), Medicare Australia (25.4%), ATO (12.8%), Centrelink (12.0%), DHS (11.9%), BoM (3.9%) and ASIC (1.0%).

Each year, a substantial number of APS employees relocate interstate and overseas: during 2010–11, 7,576 ongoing employees relocated, through promotion or transfer. There was a net move away from the ACT of 174 employees, with net moves to most other locations, particularly to Victoria (384) and Queensland (142).

Engagements and separations

During 2010–11, there were 12,777 engagements and 10,370 separations of ongoing employees. The number of engagements includes 214 ongoing employees who moved into coverage of the Act. Both engagements and separations rose, compared with the previous year. Figure 4.13 shows ongoing engagements and separations as a proportion of all ongoing employees for the past 15 years. It shows that the separation rate has been relatively steady for the past 11 years, while the engagement rate has varied considerably over the 15-year period.

Figure 4.13 Ongoing engagement and separation rates, 1996–97 to 2010–11

Figure 4.13 shows that the engagement rate has been higher than the separation rate since 1999–00. Both rates increased during 2010–11, but the increase was greater for engagements.
Source: APSED


During 2010–11, the overall number of engagements increased by 24.0%, after falling by 21.4% in 2009–10 and 18.5% in 2008–09. There were increases at all classification levels, except for EL 2, SES 2 and SES 3. The strongest growth was at lower classification levels, particularly at APS 1, although that growth was from a very low number of engagements the previous year. After falling in proportional terms for the past few years, engagements at APS 3–4 levels increased during the year. Engagements of Trainees and Graduate APS employees continued to rise. Figure 4.14 shows the proportion of engagements by classification group for the past 15 years.

Figure 4.14 Engagements of ongoing employees by classification, 1996–97 to 2010–11

Figure 4.14 shows that APS 3–4 levels accounted for over one-third of all engagements during 2010–11, a trend that has been evident for each of the past 15 years. Engagements have fallen at APS 1–2 levels, and increased at higher levels, particularly at APS 5–6 and ELs.
Source: APSED

Women accounted for 55.3% of all ongoing engagements during 2010–11, compared with 57.4% of all ongoing employees at June 2011. This is the third year that women’s representation in engagements has dropped, after increasing steadily for many years.

Engagements rose in all age groups during 2010–11, particularly in the 40 to 44 and 45 to 49 years age groups. The 55 years and over age group fell slightly in proportional terms after three years of growth. Over the past 15 years, this age group has increased from 1.9% of all ongoing engagements to 5.2% in 2010–11. The median age of engagements this year was 31 years (32 years for men and 29 years for women). This was the first year that the median age of engagements for women was below 30 years since 1994–95, and reflects the relative growth in engagements at lower classifications (usually filled by younger people) this year.

Figure 4.15 shows changes in the age profile of ongoing engagements for the past 15 years.

Figure 4.15 Engagements of ongoing employees by age group, 1996–97 to 2010–11

Figure 4.15 shows that the 25–34 years age group accounted for over one-third of all engagements during 2010–11, a trend that has been evident for each of the past 15 years. The 55 years and over age group has more than doubled its proportion over that period.
Source: APSED

Defence (2,071 or 16.2%) and ATO (1,952 or 15.3%) accounted for almost one-third of all engagements during 2010–11—similar to their proportion of all ongoing employees. The number of engagements to ATO more than quadrupled from the previous year (414) and accounted for almost two-thirds of the overall increase in engagements. The number of engagements to Centrelink almost halved (from 1,629 to 825).

Mobility between the APS and the broader labour market can be gauged by measuring the proportion of external engagements (from outside the APS) as a proportion of total engagements and promotions. During 2010–11, 44.3% of these employment opportunities were filled by engagement—an increase from the previous year (42.0%), but similar to the proportion in the previous two years. The increase reflects the stronger growth in engagements (up by 24.0%) than in promotions (up by 12.9%). Excluding base-grade recruitment—APS 1 to APS 3, Graduate APS and Trainee classifications—the proportion of employment opportunities filled by engagement during 2010–11 was 30.9%, a slight decrease on the previous two years. Promotions within an agency accounted for 92.7% of all promotions, down slightly from 93.9% in 2009–10.


There were 10,370 separations of ongoing employees during 2010–11, an increase of 6.7% on the 9,717 separations the previous year. The overall separation rate for the APS was 6.8%, up slightly from 6.5% during 2009–10. Despite the increase this year, the separation rate was lower than that for each year from 2004–05 to 2008–09.

Resignations accounted more than half of all separations during the year, but fell in proportional terms. The strongest growth in separations was in age retirements, which increased by 18.9%, from 1,692 to 2,011. The number of terminations fell by 21.5%, from 237 to 186.

Figure 4.16 shows how the main separation types have varied over the past 15 years. Age retirements have increased steadily over time, from 4.4% of all separations in 1996–97 to 19.4% in 2010–11. Resignations have remained the most common separation type for more than a decade, varying inversely each year with the rise and fall in retrenchments.

Figure 4.16 Separations of ongoing employees, 1996–97 to 2010–11

Figure 4.16 shows that resignations accounted for over half of all separations during 2010–11. As a proportion of all separations, age retirements have increased steadily over time, rising from 4.4% in 1996–97 to 19.4% in 2010–11.
Source: APSED

Separations by age group for the past two years are shown in Table 4.4. The proportion of ongoing employees in each age group at June 2011 is included for comparison. In general, the number of separations fell for younger age groups and rose for older age groups, except for a slight fall in the 50 to 54 years age group. Comparing separations to the age profile of the APS overall, those aged under 30 years and those aged 55 years and over separated at a higher rate than their APS representation.

Table 4.4: Separations of ongoing employees by age group, 2009–10 and 2010–11
Source: APSED
Employee age group 2009–10 2010–11 % change 2009–10 to 2010–11 Ongoing employees June 2011
No. % No. % % %
Under 20 36 0.4 24 0.2 -33.3 0.1
20 to 24 526 5.4 480 4.6 -8.7 3.8
25 to 29 1,257 12.9 1,362 13.1 8.4 11.3
30 to 34 1,150 11.8 1,187 11.4 3.2 13.1
35 to 39 1,076 11.1 1,134 10.9 5.4 13.9
40 to 44 849 8.7 913 8.8 7.5 14.0
45 to 49 849 8.7 850 8.2 0.1 15.0
50 to 54 1,470 15.1 1,467 14.1 -0.2 14.6
55 to 59 1,186 12.2 1,321 12.7 11.4 8.9
60 and over 1,318 13.6 1,632 15.7 23.8 5.2
Total 9,717 100.0 10,370 100.0 6.7 100.0

Figure 4.17 shows the proportion of ongoing employees in the 50 to 65 years cohort that separated through resignation or retirement during the past 15 years. The sharp rise in the separation rate for 54-year-olds from 1997–98 to 2001–02 is most likely due to the strong growth in earnings rates for the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme (CSS), and the subsequent effect of the financial incentive for some members to resign just before their 55th birthday—the so-called 54/11 effect. Separations for this cohort then plateaued for several years before falling sharply during 2008–09 and 2009–10. The separation rate fell again slightly during 2010–11. The resignation rate for 54-year-olds was 13.8%, compared with 24.0% in 2007–08. The fall is probably due to two factors: first, the CSS closed to new members in 1990, so the proportion of 54-year-old members has declined over time; and second, the negative effects of the global financial crisis on the value of superannuation earnings rates, and the reduced incentive for resigning at 54/11.

When only employees with at least 21 years of service are included (those in the APS before the CSS closed to new members), the overall pattern of separations over time for the 50 to 65 years cohort is similar, however the proportion of 54-year-olds resigning is much higher, peaking at 48.5% in 2007–08, and dropping to 27.9% in 2010–11.

Figure 4.17 Resignation or retirement rate for selected ages, 1996–97 to 2010–11

Figure 4.17 shows the resignation or retirement rate for all employees aged 50 to 65 years, from 1996–97 to 2010–11. Fifty-four and 55-year-olds are shown separately and other ages are grouped. It shows an increase in the separation rate for 54-year-olds during the late 1990s, which then plateaued for several years at between 19% and 24%, before falling in the past three years. Separation rates for other age groups have shown little variation over time.
Source: APSED

Women accounted for 55.1% of all ongoing separations during 2010–11, down from 57.7% the previous year, and lower than their overall representation in the APS (57.4% of ongoing employees at June 2011). Women were under-represented in age retirements (49.6%).

The agencies with the largest number of ongoing separations during the year were Centrelink (1,848), Defence (1,257) and ATO (1,120). These three agencies accounted for 40.7% of all ongoing separations, somewhat lower than their combined 44.7% of ongoing APS employment.

Another way of measuring separations from an agency is to count separations from the APS, as well as promotions and transfers to other agencies—referred to as the agency exit rate.12 Of agencies with 1,000 or more ongoing employees at June 2011, those with the highest exit rates included PM&C (20.9%), the Attorney-General’s Department (17.7%) and ASIC (15.8%). Smaller agencies with relatively high exit rates included the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority (51.2%) and Cancer Australia (43.8%).

Key chapter findings

Overall, the rate of growth in the APS was low this year, and lower than the previous few years. Growth was concentrated in areas of government priorities such as defence and border security.

Agencies continue to use the flexibilities of non-ongoing employment to manage peaks and flows in work demands.

This year saw further consolidation of several long-term trends—a shift to a more qualified and experienced workforce, with employees accessing the flexibility of part-time work, and often returning to the workforce after retirement. The long-term feminisation of the APS continued to slow.

There was continued growth in employment at middle and senior management levels, with more ongoing employees now at APS 5–6 levels than at APS 3–4 levels.

The ageing of the APS workforce continues, partly through lower levels of recruitment and higher levels of separation among younger people, and increased levels of recruitment of older workers. Also, many who retire come back to work as non-ongoing employees—a valuable resource for agencies due to their prior experience and corporate knowledge.

The typical new starter in the APS this year is a 31-year-old female, with graduate qualifications, engaged at the APS 3 level. The typical APS employee is a 42-year-old female, with graduate qualifications, working at the APS 6 level.


1 The Commission makes every effort to ensure the integrity of APSED data, but it is not responsible for inaccuracies in the data agencies provide. The Commission undertakes extensive audits of the data and, as a result, some errors in historical data have been corrected. For this reason, caution should be exercised when comparing data presented in this report with that from earlier years. Most significantly, previously published data on employee numbers may have been revised, and therefore may not be directly comparable. Due to different data sources and definitions, there may be variations between the data published here and that published by individual agencies. For further information on the size and composition of the APS, including definitions, see the Australian Public Service Statistical Bulletin 2010–11.

2 These agencies are reported on separately in this chapter.

3 In 1997, 145 ongoing employees were employed in other classifications and are included in the total for that year.

4 During 2010–11, the SES grew from 1.73% to 1.76% of all ongoing employees—an increase of 0.03 percentage points—but when each value is rounded the increase was 0.1 percentage points.

5 ASIC had 10 women on temporary assignment at SES classifications at June 2011.