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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 (Cth).

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 2020, contains records relating to 150,474 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.

  1. 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 Public Service Act 1999 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.

  1. 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 in the agency 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 data. 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 the 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 Public Service Act 1999 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.

2020 APS employee census

Previous years’ State of the Service Reports were informed by the results of the annual APS employee census. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the workforce, the 2020 APS employee census was postponed from its usual May to June delivery timeframe and deployed from October to November. This change in timeframes meant that 2020 APS employee census results were not available for reporting in time for publication within this State of the Service Report.

Collection of diversity data

Concise demographic information enables the APS to produce accurate workforce descriptions to support the management of its workforce. The APSC collects personal data including diversity information concerning all employees employed under the Public Service Act 1999. On engagement to the APS, employees provide personal information to their employing agencies. This information is provided to the APSC to enable the execution of the APS Commissioner’s functions.  

With the exception of gender, the provision of diversity data is voluntary for APS employees. As a result, diversity rates represent the proportion of employees who identify as belonging to that diversity group, and actual diversity rates may be underestimated. The APS employee census, which is anonymous, records higher rates for some diversity groups.

This difference is historically largest for the proportion of employees with ongoing disability. The employee census likely attracts higher disclosure rates as responses are not readily identifiable to individual employees, unlike the more formal HR system. Many people are likely to regard their diversity information as sensitive information and it has long been established that people avoid reporting details they regard as sensitive.[1] Employees may decide to withhold information when they believe it does not affect their ability to carry out their role. Some may have concerns about possible impacts to their future employment or how it will affect them socially within the workplace. The APS takes pride in its ability to foster inclusive workplaces but also respects employees’ rights to privacy regarding personal information.

Collecting gender information

Individuals may identify and be recognised within the community as a gender other than the sex they were assigned at birth or during infancy, or as a gender which is not exclusively male or female.  Therefore, where gender information is collected and recorded in a personal record, individuals should be given the option to select M (Male), F (Female) or X (Indeterminate / Intersex / Unspecified).

APS Agency Survey

The APS Agency Survey is conducted annually and collects information on a range of workforce initiatives, strategies and compliance matters, including the number and type of APS Code of Conduct breaches. APS agencies with at least 20 APS employees complete the survey. The information collected through the APS Agency Survey is used to inform workforce strategies and for other research and evaluation purposes.

Since 2002, the APS Agency Survey has been administered to APS agencies with employees employed under the Public Service Act 1999. The 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 2020, the APS Agency Survey was administered to 95 agencies during 22 June to 31 July 2020. The response rate for 2020 was 100%, which is typical for this 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 APS 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 management and administration

The 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 2020.


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.

Whole-of-APS working from home data

The APSC collects working from home data from individual agencies. This data is then aggregated and weighted proportionate to the number of employees at each agency.

Internal APS agency employee surveys

Between April and June 2020, numerous agencies administered internal surveys of their workforces. Questions included within these surveys differed between agencies—and are not comparable APS‑wide—but covered themes of wellbeing, technology, home-based work and managing dispersed teams. In total, 8 agencies provided results of their internal employee surveys to the APSC for analysis.

In addition, 12 agencies—comprising a response sample of more than 23,000 employees—included a set of 5 questions from the 2019 APS employee census in their internal employee surveys. These questions focused on employee engagement and productivity-related measures and enable comparisons with 2019 APS employee census results.


[1] Tourangeau R, Yan T. (2007). Sensitive questions in surveys. Psychological bulletin. 133(5):859.