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Appendix 1: APS workforce data

APS Employment Database

The Australian Public Service Employment Database (APSED) contains employment, diversity and education details for all people employed in the APS under the authority of the Public Service Act 1999 (Cwlth).

Information on staffing, including trends in the size, structure and composition of the APS, contributes to research and evaluation work on the changing nature of the APS. This, in turn, assists agencies to formulate their people management policies and practices.

APSED is the definitive source of APS employment data, supporting strong evidence-based APS workforce policy, people management and advice.

APSED scope and collection methodology

APSED stores the employment data of all current and former APS employees. The database was established in 1999 but contains data on APS employees from 1966. The most recent snapshot, conducted on 30 June 2019, contains records relating to 147,237 employees.
APSED is maintained by the APSC and the data is supplied to APSED from the HR systems of APS agencies.

Two types of data files are used to update and maintain APSED—movement files and snapshot files. In general, both file types contain the same data items, but they differ in purpose.

  • Movement files are provided to the APSC from each agency every month. They are used to document changes in employment history (for example, engagements, promotions  and maternity leave) for all people employed under the PS Act on a monthly basis.

Changes in employment characteristics every month are recorded using movement codes. Movement files contain a record for every movement relevant to updating and maintaining employee records in APSED that has been processed in an agency’s HR system during the month. Therefore, if an employee undertakes multiple movements within a reference period, the corresponding movement files will contain multiple records for that employee. Conversely, if an employee has no movements during the reference period, they will not appear in the movement file.

  • Snapshot files are provided to the APSC from each agency on a six-monthly basis. They are used to verify that the information stored in APSED, as provided by each agency in the monthly movement files, is correct and current at 31 December and 30 June each year. Snapshot files contain a single record for every APS employee employed by a particular agency on 31 December and 30 June.

APSED items

Agency HR systems supply APSED with unit records containing this personal information:

  • personal particulars—Australian Government Staff number, name, and date of birth
  • diversity data—gender, Indigenous identification, country of birth, year of arrival, first and main languages spoken, parents’ first languages, disability status
  • employment data—classification, email address, date of engagement, employment status, standard hours, workplace postcode, movement codes and dates, operative status, previous employment, job family code, agency
  • educational qualifications and main fields of study.

Under Section 50 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2016, an agency head must ensure measures are in place to collect information from each employee and give collected information to the Australian Public Service Commissioner. While individuals do not explicitly consent to the collection of their movement and employment data, they can choose to supply or withhold all diversity data except gender and data relating to their educational qualifi ations. In relation to these items, Section 50 states that an agency head must allow APS employees to provide a response of ‘choose not to give this information’.

Management and administration

Agency HR systems collect relevant data items through movement and snapshot files, and supply these to the APSC through secure or encrypted means. Agencies are responsible for the collection, security, quality, storage, access, use, and disclosure of their HR data as well as compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles. While agency HR systems capture detailed information on each APS employee’s pay, leave history and entitlements, these are out of scope for APSED. Only data fields supplied to the APSC are in scope.

Upon receipt, each data file is corrected in an iterative process. Once validated and transferred to the APSC, error checks on the new files are performed by the APSC against the extant data in APSED. The APSC and agency work together to resolve these differences. Once resolved, cleaned data is incorporated.

APSED data is stored on a secure information technology system that is password protected and accessible only by a small team in the APSC who have been granted access by team supervisors and trained in protecting and using these collections. Standard operating procedures dictate when personal information can be added or changed. All changes to the database are logged in an audit file.

Privacy and confidentiality

APSED is fully compliant with the APSC’s privacy policy, which sets out the kinds of information collected and held, how this information is collected and held, its purposes, and authority for its collection. The full APSC privacy policy, which includes specific information related to APSED collection, is available at www.apsc.gov.au/apsc-complete-privacy-policy. The APSC has undertaken a detailed privacy impact assessment in relation to APSED, concluding that it complies with all relevant Australian Privacy Principles.

Data protections within APSED include secure transfer of information between agencies and the APSC, storage of data on APSC servers requiring individual logins to access, restriction of access to a small number of authorised users, and ensuring public release of data is undertaken in aggregate format only.

APS employee census

The APS employee census is an annual employee perception survey of the APS workforce. All eligible personnel employed under the PS Act are invited to participate. The census has been conducted since 2012 and collects APS employee opinions and perspectives on important issues, including employee engagement, wellbeing, performance management, leadership, and general impressions of the APS.

Data from the APS employee census help target strategies to build APS workplace capability now and in the future.

APS employee census collection methodology

The 2019 APS employee census was administered to eligible APS employees during the period 6 May to 7 June 2019. This timing was consistent with the timing of the past eight annual employee census administrations.

Although participation is encouraged, the APS employee census is voluntary. If a respondent chooses to participate, only a limited number of demographic-type questions must be answered. The remaining questions do not require a response.

APS employee census design

Questions from previous years were used as the basis for the 2019 APS employee census. Some questions were included for the first time to address topical issues or to improve the quality of the data collected following a thorough evaluation of the content of the 2018 APS employee census. To maintain a reliable longitudinal dataset, changes to questions are kept to a minimum. While a standardised questionnaire is employed, agencies can ask their employees a limited number of agency-specific questions.

APS employee census development

Th  2019 APS employee census included 267 individual questions grouped into 17 sections. Each section addressed a key aspect of working for an APS agency.

Each year the content of the APS employee census is reviewed to ensure each question has value and meets a specific purpose. The APSC researches and consults broadly to develop and select questions for inclusion. In 2019, the APSC:

  • considered strategic-level priorities coming from the Secretaries Board and other senior-level committees to ensure the employee census would capture appropriate information to inform these priorities
  • consulted with subject matter experts from within the APSC and other APS agencies to seek their input to question design and information requirements for supporting APS-level policies and programs
  • researched contemporary understanding of issues and options for questionnaire content
  • provided participating agencies with an opportunity to give feedback and input to questionnaire design.

The resulting questionnaire covered numerous themes and measures. Central to these are three indices addressing employee engagement, innovation and wellbeing.

APS employee census delivery

The 2019 APS employee census was administered using these collection methods:

  • online, through a unique link provided to each employee by email from Engine (previously ORC International), the contracted census administrators
  • telephone surveys with employees who did not have available supportive information technology to provide reasonable adjustment for their disability
  • paper-based surveys for employees who did not have access to an individual email account or did not have suitable access to the Internet.

Sampling and coverage

The 2019 APS employee census covered eligible ongoing and non-ongoing employees from 102 APS agencies. One APS agency elected not to participate. The initial population for the APS employee census comprised all APS employees from the 102 participating agencies recorded in APSED as at 28 February 2019. This population was then provided to each participating agency for confirmation. It is up to individual agencies to set their eligibility criteria. For example, some agencies removed employees on long-term leave, while others contact employees on long-term leave to check if they would like to participate.

Invitations to participate in the census were sent to employees from 6 May 2019. The number of invitations was adjusted as new employees were added, separations processed, and incorrect email addresses corrected. The deadline for survey completion was 7 June 2019.

The final sample size for the census was 136,527. Overall, 104,471 employees responded, giving a response rate of 77 per cent, the highest response rate in the history of the annual APS employee census. This response rate is encouraging given the size of the APS workforce, the number of participating agencies, and that the APS employee census has been administered annually since 2012.

Management and administration

The APS employee census is managed and coordinated by the APSC’s Strategic Policy and Research Group. The APSC contracts an external service provider to support survey administration and reporting activities. Engine was this service provider in 2019.

Public release

This year, for the first time, many APS agencies have decided to publicly release their APS employee census results.

This initiative aligns with other activities across the APS to make data more open and transparent. It also supports the Australian Government’s policy position on open data and follows the lead set by some state public service counterparts, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The public release of agency census data is aggregated and de-identified to protect individual’s privacy. The release complies with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cwlth), and the principles and codes under the Act.

Agency APS employee census results for participating agencies will be made available on their respective websites after this report is tabled, and can be centrally accessed on the APSC website.


The APSC employs specific rules around how results are reported. Such rules protect the privacy of respondents and individual agency results.

De-identification of data is undertaken in accordance with guidance provided by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Further information about how privacy is maintained can be found on the APSC website:

  • privacy policy
  • APS employee census collection notice.

Employee engagement index

The  APS employee census uses a model of employee engagement developed by Engine. This model addresses three attributes associated with employee engagement and measures the emotional connection and commitment employees have to working for their organisation. In this model, an engaged employee will:

  • Say—the employee is a positive advocate of the organisation
  • Stay—the employee is committed to the organisation and wants to stay as an employee
  • Strive—the employee is willing to put in discretionary effort to excel in their job and help their organisation succeed

First introduced in 2017, the Say, Stay, Strive employee engagement model is flexible and the APSC has tailored the questions for the APS context.

The results for the individual elements of the employee engagement index are presented in Appendix 4.

Innovation index

In part, the 2019 APS employee census addressed innovation through a set of dedicated questions that contribute to an index score. This innovation index score assesses both whether employees feel willing and able to be innovative, and whether their agency has a culture that enables them to be so.

The  results for the individual elements of the innovation index are presented in Appendix 4.

Wellbeing index

The wellbeing index in the APS employee census measures both the practical and cultural elements that allow for a sustainable and healthy working environment. The APS has long been focused on the wellbeing of its employees. As employers, APS agencies have obligations under work health and safety legislation. Together with these obligations is an acknowledgement that high performance of employees and organisations cannot be sustained without adequate levels of employee wellbeing.

The results for the individual elements of the wellbeing index are presented in Appendix 4.

Calculating and interpreting index scores

The questions comprising the employee engagement, innovation and wellbeing indices are asked on a five-point agreement scale. To calculate the index score, each respondent’s answers to the set of questions are recoded to fall on a scale of between 0 and 100 per cent. The recoded responses are then averaged across the five or more index questions to provide the index score for that respondent. An individual only receives an index score if they have responded to all questions comprising that index.

Table A1.1: Example table used to calculate index scores (for one APS employee)


Strongly agree


Neither agree or disagree


Strongly disagree









Example question 1


See the source image





Example question 2


See the source image





Example question 3



See the source image




Example question 4




See the source image



Example question 5


See the source image





Sum of question weights for this employee


Index score for this example respondent (325/5)


Index scores for groups of respondents are calculated by averaging the respondent scores that comprise that group.

An index score on its own can provide information about the group to which it relates. Index scores, however, have the most use when compared with scores over time or between work units, organisations and demographic groups.

Treatment of responses of ‘don’t know’ and ‘not applicable’

Specific questions included within the 2019 APS employee census enabled respondents to provide responses of ‘don’t know’, ‘not applicable’ or similar. Responses of this nature were typically excluded from the calculation of results for inclusion within this report. This was so that results reflected respondents who expressed an informed opinion to the relevant question.

Depending upon the intent, other products generated from the 2019 APS employee census may not apply these same rules. The method in analysis and reporting will be made clear within these products.

APS agency survey

The APS agency survey is conducted annually from late June to mid-August. It collects information on a range of workforce initiatives, strategies and compliance matters, including the number and type of APS Code of Conduct breaches, workplace diversity strategies and agency collaboration challenges. APS agencies with at least 20 APS employees complete the survey. The information collected through the agency survey is used to inform workforce strategies and for other research and evaluation purposes.

Since 2002, the agency survey has been administered to APS agencies with employees employed under the PS Act. The annual survey assists the Australian Public Service Commissioner to fulfil a range of duties as specified in the Act. These include, but are not limited to:

  • informing the annual State of the Service Report
  • strengthening the professionalism of the APS and facilitating continuous improvement in its workforce management
  • monitoring, reviewing and reporting on APS capabilities.

APS agency survey collection methodology

In 2019, the APS agency survey was administered to 97 agencies during 25 June to 9 August 2019. The response rate for 2019 was 100 per cent, which is typical for the agency survey.

Each year the APS agency survey is sent to the contact officers nominated for each agency. These contact officers are responsible for coordinating the input from relevant areas and uploading responses to an agency survey portal managed by ORIMA Research. The survey requires each agency head to verify the agency’s submission for completeness and accuracy of responses.

APS agency survey design

Before fieldwork each year, the content of the APS agency survey questionnaire is reviewed so each question has value and meets a specific purpose and, where possible, aligns with the APS employee census. The APSC researches and consults broadly to develop and select questions to include in the questionnaire.

APS agency survey management and administration

Th  APSC’s Strategic Policy and Research Group manages and coordinates the APS agency survey. The APSC contracts an external service provider to support survey administration. ORIMA Research was this service provider in 2019.


All APS agency survey data are stored in a secure password-protected environment. Where results are included in reporting, agency results are de-identified or aggregated.