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2: Size and Shape

At 30 June 2018, there were 150,594 employees in the Australian Public Service. This is a 1.0% decline from 30 June 2017.

The APS employee headcount has remained relatively stable since 31 December 2017 with only a slight increase of 105 employees. This aligns with the government’s budget commitment to maintain the government sector at June 2007 levels.

APS employee numbers have fallen by 10.0% from their 2012 peak of 167,330.

At June 2018 the APS included:

  • 136,175 ongoing employees (90.4%);
  • 14,419 non-ongoing employees (9.6%)
    • 7,066 employed for a specified term or task 
    • 7,353 employed on an irregular/intermittent basis (known as ‘casual’ employees). 

The proportion of non-ongoing employees peaked at 11.4% in 2016 of which casuals amounted to 6.0% overall. This is partly explained by the large number of non-ongoing staff employed by the ABS and AEC for the 2016 Census and federal election. 

The employment of casuals in the APS has risen considerably since 2000 (0.6%) and peaked at 6.0% in 2016. In the last two years the proportion of casual employees has fallen slightly, down to 4.9% at 30 June 2018.

APS employee headcounts, June 2000 to June 2018

Source: APSED June 2018 Table 1

APS non-ongoing employees, June 2000 to June 2018

Source: APSED June 2018 Table 1

APS Agencies

At 30 June 2018, the largest four agencies in the APS accounted for 57.4% of the total APS workforce. This includes the Department of Human Services (21.8%), the Australian Taxation Office (13.5%), the Department of Defence (12.5%) and The Department of Home Affairs (9.6%). (APSED June 2018 Table 4)

The APS had a total decrease of 1,368 employees from June 2017. The majority of these decreases were within 3 agencies:

  • 1,168 employees in the Department of Human Services
  • 311 in the Australian Taxation Office 
  • 242 in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. 

During 2017–18, there were 915 employee transfers due to Machinery of Government changes. The majority of these (818) involved transfers into the Department of Home Affairs from 4 other agencies:

  • Attorney General’s (486)
  • Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities (282)
  • Prime Minister and Cabinet (31) 
  • Social Services (19)

Other agencies that saw a significant increase in numbers during 2017–18 were the National Disability Insurance Agency (673), Defence (397) and the Australian Electoral Commission (298). (APSED June 2018 Table 19)

During 2017–18 a number of other changes occurred to the structure which had an effect on the spread of headcounts across the APS. See Appendix 3 for details of these coverage changes, along with a historical breakdown of employee numbers moving in and out of coverage under the PS Act since 2001-02.

Age Profile

The average age of the APS workforce was 43.4 years at 30 June 2018. (APSED June 2018 Table 75)
The average age of the APS has increased steadily from 40.2 years in 2002. This mirrors the trend seen across the general Australian population and its workforce. 

The proportion of the APS population that is 50 or over has increased from 19.5% in 2000 to 32.7% in 2018. Conversely, the rate of employees under the age of 30 has declined from 18.3% in 2000 to 12.6% in 2018. (APSED June 2018 Table 32).

Classification Structure

At 30 June 2018, the most common classification across the APS was APS 6 (22%). This has grown from 18.2% in 2003. In 2003, the most common classification was APS 4 (23.5%) but this has dropped to 19.6% in 2018.  These two classifications also remained the most common levels at which engagements across the APS take place. (APSED June 2018 Table 10).

Proportion of APS employees by Classification, 30 June 2018

Source: APSED June 2018 table 10

Geographic distribution of the APS

APS employees headcount and proportion by State

Source: APSED June 2018 Table 9

Of all states and territories, the largest number of APS employees was found in the ACT (57,115); although this represented only 38% of the APS. The three largest states by population (New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland) made up almost half (47%) of the APS workforce. 

A total of 1,471 APS employees were located overseas. Agencies that employed large proportions of overseas staff included the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (65%), Home Affairs (16%) Defence (11%) and AUSTRADE (5%). 
(APSED June 2018 Table 14).

Regional distribution of APS

Almost 1 in 7 (14.1%) of the APS workforce was located in regional areas (outside capital cities) at 30 June 2018. This has steadily increased since June 2012 (12.2%). There were almost 4,000 more regional APS employees in 2018 then there were in 2005. This includes substantial growth in employee numbers outside of capital cities in NSW, Victoria and the Northern Territory (APSED June 2018 Table 12). 

Out of the 21,177 employees located outside cities, NSW has the highest proportion of employees located regionally at 41.8%, which equates to 5.9% of the total APS. A further 25% of regional employees were in Queensland, and 21% in Victoria. 

The proportion of APS working in the capital cities (other than Canberra) has shown a steady decline from 53% in 2004 to 48% in 2018. The proportion of employees based in the ACT increased from 34% in 2004 to 40% in 2012 before falling to 38% in 2018. (APSED June 2018 Table 12).


Last reviewed: 
27 September 2018