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Appendix 1 - Workforce trends

This appendix explores time series demographic and structural patterns for Australian Public Service (APS) employees—those employed under the Public Service Act 1999 (the Act)—at June 2012, and over the past 15 years.1 The main source of data for the appendix is the APS Employment Database (APSED), which the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) maintains. The appendix focuses on overall trends in employment, including size, employment status, sex, classification, occupational groupings, workforce mobility and employee movements. The trends relating to age and to equal employment opportunity groups are discussed in detail in Chapter 5 and Chapter 6, respectively. Data in this appendix refers to the APS at 30 June 2012. Machinery-of-government changes after that date will be reflected in the State of the Service report for 2012–13.

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

APS employment trends

There were 168,580 APS employees at June 2012, compared with 166,252 at June 2011. The total number of employees rose by 2,328 or 1.4%, which is marginally higher than the 1.1% increase in 2010–11. This increase is consistent with the final Federal Budget position for APS agencies in 2011–12, where there was an estimated actual increase in the average staffing level2 (ASL) of 1,206.3

Excluding coverage changes, the agencies with the largest growth in 2011–12 were the Department of Defence (Defence), which grew by 936 or 4.2%, and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), which grew by 651 or 8.2%. The Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE) grew by 1,238 or 34.5%, but this growth was due, in part, to machinery-of-government changes. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) grew by 1,126 or 123.3%, but this growth was due to a decision by that agency to employ staff as non-ongoing employees under the Act, rather than under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. This change in employment arrangement provides irregular and intermittent employees with coverage under the AEC Enterprise Agreement 2011–14.

Two agencies had large proportional increases: Cancer Australia (41 or 186.4%), due, in part, to a merger with the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Council (a Commonwealth company) and the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) which grew by 32 or 53.3%.

The largest decrease in total employee numbers was in the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (1,250 or 22.9%), but this was due, in part, to machinery-of-government changes.

Coverage changes

During 2011–12, there were a number of coverage changes as agencies were established, abolished or moved into coverage of the Act.

Agencies established

A number of agencies were established during the year including:

  • Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), with movement of employees from DEEWR and the Australian Universities Quality Agency
  • Clean Energy Regulator (CER) with movement of employees from the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER), coupled with certain functions transferring from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE)
  • Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, with employees from the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA)
  • Office of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate (FWBC), with employees from Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC)
  • National Mental Health Commission.

Agencies abolished

A number of agencies were abolished during the year including:

  • Centrelink and Medicare, with employees transferred to the Department of Human Services (DHS)
  • ORER, with employees transferred to CER
  • ABCC, with employees transferred to FWBC.

Agencies that moved into coverage

A total of 246 employees moved into coverage of the Act during the year—69 to the Australian Skills Quality Authority, 47 to the Australian Institute of Criminology, 31 to Cancer Australia, 30 to Defence, 29 to DEEWR, 15 to the Australian Law Reform Commission, 14 to TEQSA, 9 to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and 2 to the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. Four employees moved out of coverage of the Act during the year, from the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) to the Department of Parliamentary Services.

Figure A1.1 shows the change in total APS employee numbers for the past 20 years. The adjusted line takes account of coverage changes in the APS during each year, by adjusting total employee numbers in the APS by the number of employees performing those functions as the function moved into or out of coverage of the Act. Taking into consideration the coverage changes for 2011–12 there was an increase in APS employees of 1.3%.

Figure A1.1 APS employees, 1993 to 2012

Figure A1.1 is a line graph showing the total number of APS employees between 1993 and 2012. From 1993 to 1999 the total number of APS employees fell each year, from about 170,000 to just under 120,000. Taking into consideration the coverage changes, ther

Source: APSED

Ongoing and non-ongoing employees

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

Ongoing employment

At June 2012, there were 154,307 ongoing employees in the APS, an increase of 959 or 0.6% on the previous year. This growth continued the trend that has been evident since 1999–2000, however the growth rate of 0.6% was less than a quarter of the average annual growth rate over this period (3.5%).

The largest increases in ongoing employment were in DIISRTE (1,097 or 34.5%), Defence (1,060 or 4.9%) and DIAC (438 or 6.0%). Smaller agencies with large proportional increases in ongoing employment were Cancer Australia (31 or 221.4%), NOPSEMA (25 or 43.1%) and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) (13 or 81.3%).

The largest decreases in ongoing employment were in DEEWR (1,232 or 23.2%), DoHA (335 or 6.9%), the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (313 or 31.4%) and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) (241 or 7.3%).

Non-ongoing employment

The number of non-ongoing employees increased this year to 14,273 at June 2012—an increase of 1,369 or 10.6%. This is in contrast with a decrease in non-ongoing employment of 3.7% in the previous year. The increase in the number of non-ongoing employees from June 2011 is considered high compared with most of the previous decade. At June 2012, non-ongoing employees accounted for 8.5% of total employment.

Non-ongoing employees can be engaged in three categories: specified term; specified task; and irregular or intermittent duties. At June 2012, 58.1% were engaged for a specified term, 3.6% for a specified task and 38.3% for irregular or intermittent duties. There is considerable variation in agencies' use of these categories.

More than one-third of agencies engage all non-ongoing employees as specified term. In contrast, Finance (89.7%) and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) (92.3%) engage most non-ongoing employees for irregular or intermittent duties.

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 respond to peaks in workforce demand and the need for specialised skills for specific periods. Smaller agencies are more likely to rely on the use of non-ongoing employees. At June 2012, 24 agencies had at least one-quarter of employees engaged on a non-ongoing basis—one of these was a large agency (AEC), 18 small agencies and the remainder medium-sized.

Figure A1.2 shows how non-ongoing employment has changed in the APS, as a proportion of total employment, over the past 15 years. Between 1999 and 2004 there was a steady decline in non-ongoing employment. Since then, the proportion stabilised at around 8%, increasing to 8.5% at June 2012. The representation rate for women was consistently higher than for men over this period, although the gap between women and men narrowed in the five years to June 2011. At June 2012, 61.0% of non-ongoing employees were women, compared with 57.3% of ongoing employees.

Figure A1.2 Non-ongoing employees as a proportion of total employees, 1998 to 2012

Figure A1.2 is a line graphs showing the non-ongoing employees as a proportion of total employees between 1998 and 2012. Between 1999 and 2004 there was a steady decline in the proportion of non-ongoing employees in the APS. Since 2004 this has stabilised

Source: APSED

This year, the largest increases in non-ongoing employment were in AEC (1,120 or a ten-fold increase)4, DIAC (213 or 37.8%), the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) (167 or 51.7%), DIISRTE (141 or 34.1%) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) (121 or 73.3%). The largest decreases in non-ongoing employment were in the Australian Bureau of Statistics (125 or 20.4%), Defence (124 or 19.5%), ATO (120 or 4.4%) and DCCEE (109 or 64.5%).

Agencies with the largest number of non-ongoing employees at June 2012 were the ATO (2,586 or 10.5%), DHS (1,475 or 4.0%) and the AEC (1,236 or 60.6%).

Figure A1.3 shows that the classification profile of non-ongoing employees is concentrated at lower levels. At June 2012, 56.0% of APS 1–2 employees were non-ongoing, compared with only 3.6% of Executive Level (EL) employees and 3.0% of Senior Executive Service (SES) employees. In contrast, 6.3% of SES Band 3s were non-ongoing.

Figure A1.3 Non-ongoing employees as a proportion of total employees by classification, June 2012

Figure A1.3 is a bar chart showing non-ongoing employees as a proportion of total employees by classification at June 2012. The majority of non-ongoing employees are at the lower APS classification levels, particularly APS 1 and APS 2.

Source: APSED

As well as being concentrated at lower classifications, non-ongoing employees have a younger age profile. At June 2012, 20.4% of non-ongoing employees were less than 25 years of age, compared with only 3.6% of ongoing employees. Chapter 5 discusses the APS workforce age profile.

Male and female employment

The long-term growth in representation of women in the APS has plateaued. The number of women increased by 1.4%, from 95,773 to 97,100, while the number of men increased by 1.4%, from 70,479 to 71,480. Despite this, the APS is still quite a feminised workforce; women account for the majority of APS employees—57.3% of ongoing employment and 57.6% of total employment at June 2012. Trends for total employment by sex are shown in Figure A1.4.

Figure A1.4 Total employees by sex, 1998 to 2012

Figure A1.4 is a line graph showing total employees in the APS by sex between 1998 and 2012. The majority of the APS is made up of women (57.3%), and this representation has been steadily rising 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, DHS (71.8%) had the highest proportion of women, followed by DoHA (70.6%). Large agencies with the highest proportion of men were the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) (74.0%) and Defence (59.7%).

Part-time employment

At June 2012, 14.0% of ongoing employees were working part time, up slightly from 13.8% in 2011 which has risen steadily from 4.9% in 1997. The rate of growth was higher for women than for men. Women are still much more likely to work part time, with 21.5% doing so at June 2012, compared with 4.0% of men. The trends over the past 15 years on part-time employment are shown in Figure A1.5.

Figure A1.5 Proportion of ongoing employees working part time by sex, 1998 to 2012

Figure A1.5 is a line graph showing the proportion of ongoing employees working part time by sex between 1998 and 2012. A higher proportion of women work part time (21.5%) compared with men (4.0%).

Source: APSED

DHS is the largest employer of part-time ongoing employees in the APS, with 8,651 or 40.0% of the total at June 2012. This group accounts for 24.4% of the ongoing DHS workforce, almost twice the APS average (14.0%). Other agencies with large numbers of part-time employees were ATO (2,488), Defence (1,130), DIAC (982) and DAFF (934).

Non-ongoing employees are much more likely to work part time—45.2% were doing so at June 2012, compared with 14.0% of ongoing employees. The non-ongoing workforce has become increasingly part time over the past decade—in 2002 the proportion was only 21.7%.

Classification structures

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

Table A1.1 compares ongoing employee numbers by classification at June 1998, 2011 and 2012. In the past year, numbers rose for trainees, APS 5, APS 6, EL and SES classification levels. While the number of ongoing APS 1 employees decreased by 65 or 6.8%, the overall number of APS 1 employees at June 2012 (895) is still higher in comparison to June 2010 (849), the lowest point over at least the last 20 years.

Classifications that grew the most during 2011–12 were trainees (up by 35 or 13.6%) and EL 1 (up by 1,188 or 4.3%). Agencies that accounted for the greatest employment of trainees included DHS (108), Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs) (66), Defence (56) and BoM (17). The agencies that accounted for most of the employment at the graduate APS classification were ATO (256), Defence (215), DHS (119), DEEWR (78) and DoHA (72). Some agencies engage trainees and graduates at the APS 1–2 and APS 3–4 levels respectively rather than in trainee or graduate classifications, and so variations over time may not necessarily reflect agency use of trainees or graduates more broadly.

In recent years, the strongest growth in ongoing employment was in the EL classifications. This year, the number of EL 1s grew by 4.3% and EL 2s by 2.8%, compared with growth of 0.6% for all ongoing employees. The number of ongoing SES grew by 91 or 3.4%.

The APS 6 classification is now the largest in the APS, with 21.3% of all ongoing employees. This is the second year there have been more employees substantively at the APS 6 classification than at APS 4.

Table A1.1 Ongoing employees by base classification, 1998, 2011 and 20125
Classification 1998 2011 2012 % change 2011 to 2012 % change 1998 to 2012
No. % No. % No. %
Source: APSED
APS 1 7,323 6.7 960 0.6 895 0.6 -6.8 -87.8
APS 2 11,135 10.3 3,869 2.5 3,562 2.3 -7.9 -68.0
APS 3 24,694 22.8 19,731 12.9 18,367 11.9 -6.9 -25.6
APS 4 14,111 13.0 30,751 20.1 30,622 19.8 -0.4 117.0
APS 5 13,317 12.3 21,047 13.7 21,518 13.9 2.2 61.6
APS 6 16,807 15.5 31,978 20.9 32,860 21.3 2.8 95.5
EL 1 11,328 10.4 27,630 18.0 28,818 18.7 4.3 154.4
EL 2 6,745 6.2 12,875 8.4 13,231 8.6 2.8 96.2
SES 1 1,157 1.1 1,993 1.3 2,061 1.3 3.4 78.1
SES 2 321 0.3 571 0.4 590 0.4 3.3 83.8
SES 3 89 0.1 131 0.1 135 0.1 3.1 51.7
Trainee 624 0.6 258 0.2 293 0.2 13.6 -53.0
Graduate APS 773 0.7 1,554 1.0 1,355 0.9 -12.8 75.3
Total 108,527 100.0 153,348 100.0 154,307 100.0 0.6 42.2

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 APS 1–2 levels (down 14.1 percentage points) and increases at APS 5–6 levels (up by 7.5 percentage points) and ELs (up by 10.6 percentage points). As a proportion of all ongoing employees, the SES increased from 1.4% at June 1998 to 1.8% at June 2012.

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 fell from 14.8 employees at lower classifications for each EL 2 to 10.5. As expected, the ratio among agencies varies considerably based on the type of work. At June 2012, in agencies with at least 1,000 ongoing employees, the ratio varied from 30.5 in DHS to 2.8 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 less complex functions over time.

Temporary assignment

At June 2012, 13,749 or 8.9% of all ongoing employees were on temporary assignment, usually at a higher classification. Of this group, APS 6 (27.6%) represented the highest proportion, followed by APS 5 (23.8%) and then EL 1 (23.4%). 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 some point in time.

As most employees on temporary assignment are performing duties at a higher classification, including temporary assignment in any analysis of classification would skew the profile slightly away from lower classifications and towards higher classifications. For example, using base classification, 4,457 employees were at APS 1–2 levels (2.9% of all ongoing employees), but this declined to 4,017 (2.6% of all ongoing employees) when temporary assignment was included. Similarly, the size of the SES increased from 2,786 (1.8% of all ongoing employees) to 3,124 (2.0%) when temporary assignment was included.

Women are more likely than men to be on temporary assignment—60.9% of ongoing employees on temporary assignment at June 2012 were women, compared with the overall representation of 57.3%.

Educational qualifications

APSED data, while incomplete, shows that 58.5% of ongoing employees have graduate qualifications, up from 57.8% last year.6 The proportion is higher for men than for women (62.7% compared with 55.1%).

Over time, there has been a steady increase in the proportion of APS employees with graduate qualifications. During 2011–12, 72.8% of those engaged had graduate qualifications. This was a slight increase on the previous year (71.1%), but considerably higher than the proportion 15 years ago (63.0% in 1997–98).

Workforce mobility

Workforce mobility ensures that people can readily move across the APS and, in doing so, help build a richer base of skills, ideas and experience at all levels. Workforce mobility also enables employees to be easily deployed to meet shifting priorities.

Mobility within the APS

Figure A1.6 shows how mobility7 between agencies varied over the past 10 years, with periods of decline, stability and growth. During 2011–12, the overall mobility rate (2.4%) fell after a sharp rise the previous year—the promotion rate was 0.8%, and the transfer rate 1.7%. The promotion rate dropped very slightly from the previous year, while the transfer rate saw a larger decrease. Over the 10 years shown in Figure A1.6, the transfer rate was about double the promotion rate, with more variability. It more than doubled in the last 10 years.

Figure A1.6 Ongoing employees—promotion and transfer rates between agencies, 2002–03 to 2011–12

Figure A1.6 is a line graph showing the ongoing employees promotion and transfer rates between agencies between 2002-03 and 2011-12. The transfer rate (1.7%) is almost double the promotion rate (0.8%).

Source: APSED

Mobility has consistently been higher for women than for men. During 2011–12, the mobility rate was 2.5% for women and 2.2% for men (down from 2.9% and 2.5% respectively during 2010–11).

In general, mobility between agencies is higher at higher classifications, particularly so for women in the SES with a mobility rate of 6.6%. The mobility rate for SES was 5.6%, down slightly from 6.3% the previous year. Mobility for ELs was 3.8% (down from 4.6% in 2010–11) and 1.8% for APS classifications (down from 2.0% in 2010–11).

Experience across agencies8

A number of reports, including Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration9 (the APS Reform Blueprint), have noted the importance of ensuring depth of experience and exposure to diverse work experiences, including exposure to policy development and service delivery roles for all classifications, particularly the SES.

One way of measuring breadth of experience is by looking at the number of agencies APS employees have worked in. Table A1.2 shows this by classification group at June 2012 and compares it with data for June 1998. The table shows a decline in the number of agencies worked in for all classification groups in the past 15 years. However, when compared with the overall trend of the past 15 years—not shown in this table—the total percentages for 2012 for the number of agencies worked in is consistent with the 15-year average.

As expected, the number of agencies worked in increases at higher classification levels, similar to mobility between agencies. Just over one-third of current SES worked in only one agency (36.5%) compared with 58.0% of ELs and 76.5% of APS 1–6 employees. Almost one-quarter of SES (22.8%) worked in four or more agencies, compared with 8.7% of ELs and 2.1% of APS 1–6 employees.

Table A1.2 Ongoing employees—number of agencies worked in, 1998 and 2012
Classification One agency 2–3 agencies 4 or more agencies
1998 % 2012 % 1998 % 2012 % 1998 % 2012 %
Source: APSED
APS 70.2 76.5 26.3 21.4 3.6 2.1
EL 49.9 58.0 36.6 33.3 13.5 8.7
SES 30.4 36.5 43.1 40.7 26.5 22.8
Total 66.5 71.0 27.9 24.8 5.5 4.3

Length of service

The median length of service for ongoing employees in the APS at June 2012 was 8.8 years, up from 8.5 years at June 2011.

Figure A1.7 shows that the proportion of ongoing employees with fewer than five years' service dropped, reflecting the lower levels of engagement of new employees over the past few years. At June 2012, 27.3% of employees were in this group, compared with around 35% for much of the past decade. The proportion with 30 or more years' service remained steady, and was 4.7% at June 2012, a slight increase from last year (4.5%).

Figure A1.7 Ongoing employees—length of service, 1998 to 2012

Figure A1.7 is a line graph showing ongoing employees by length of service between 1998 and 2012. Employees with less than 5 years service has dropped since 2009 to 27.3%, while the proportion of those with 30 years or more service remained steady. Since

Source: APSED

Length at level

The median length at level10 for all ongoing employees was 4.5 years at June 2012, up from 4.0 years at June 2011. Fifteen years ago the median was 4.4 years for all ongoing employees.

For the SES, the median length at level was 4.6 years at June 2012, down from 5.2 years in 1998. For ELs, it was 4.7 years, down from 5.7 years.

Re-engagement and prior service in the APS

Of the 11,258 ongoing engagements during 2011–12, 1,560 (13.9%) previously worked in the APS as ongoing employees. Twelve per cent of those engagements at the APS 1–6 level had prior service as did 32.5% of engaged EL 1–2 and 38.6% of engaged SES. Almost one-third (434) of ongoing engagements were re-engaged by the agency in which they previously worked. The median length of service prior to re-engagement was 5.3 years.

A total of 4,135 ongoing engagements (36.7%) previously worked as non-ongoing employees in the APS .11 Of these, 3,263 (78.9%) were engaged by the same agency in which they had been employed previously. 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 2011–12 was 1.1 years. A total of 4,858 (43.2% of all ongoing engagements) had some experience in the APS—ongoing, non-ongoing or both.

Of the 14,273 non-ongoing employees at June 2012, 2,439 or 17.1% previously worked in the APS as ongoing employees. The proportion with this prior experience increased with level up to EL 2, where 44.9% of non-ongoing employees previously worked as ongoing employees. For non-ongoing SES, the proportion was 36.8%. Previous ongoing experience was also relatively high among older non-ongoing employees—41.3% of those in the 55–59 year age group and 41.6% of those in the 60 years of age and older group.


More than 40% of APS employees (40.8% of ongoing and 40.1% of all) are located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). This proportion has risen steadily for many years—in 1998, for example, 33.3% of ongoing employees were based in the ACT.

The proportion of employees located in the ACT increases at higher classifications. For example, at June 2012, 62.3% of all ongoing EL employees and 76.8% of all ongoing SES were in the ACT, compared with 20.1% of APS 1–2 and 17.6% of APS 3–4. Table A1.3 shows the classification profile, by location, for ongoing employees at June 2012.

Table A1.3 Ongoing employees—proportion by classification and location, June 2012
Classification ACT % NSW % Vic. % Qld % SA % WA % Tas. % NT % OS % Total %
Source: APSED
APS 1–2 20.1 26.2 18.2 15.1 8.7 5.9 2.7 3.1 0.1 100.0
APS 3–4 17.6 26.4 21.0 15.3 7.0 7.0 3.9 1.8 0.1 100.0
APS 5–6 44.2 16.2 15.4 9.9 6.0 4.3 1.8 1.6 0.7 100.0
EL 62.3 10.1 11.2 6.0 4.5 2.3 0.9 0.7 1.9 100.0
SES 76.8 5.8 6.3 2.6 1.3 0.9 0.4 0.4 5.3 100.0
Trainee/Graduate APS 66.6 7.5 10.0 8.4 2.7 2.4 0.6 1.8 0.1 100.0
Total 40.8 17.8 15.9 10.5 5.9 4.6 2.2 1.5 0.9 100.0

Although the APS is centred in the ACT, there is considerable variation among agencies in the level of employment inside and outside the ACT. At June 2012, 31 out of 104 agencies had all of their ongoing employees in the ACT, 12 had none and 27 had less than one-third. Large agencies with less than one-third included AEC (31.8%), Customs (30.6%), Department of Veterans' Affairs (30.0%), DHS (19.7%), BoM (4.7%) and ASIC (1.1%).

Each year, a substantial number of APS employees relocate interstate and overseas. During 2011–12, 6,983 ongoing employees relocated, through promotion or transfer. There were net moves away from the ACT of 43 employees, the Northern Territory (65) and Tasmania (6), with net moves to Western Australia (89), Queensland (69), Victoria (51) and New South Wales (33).

Engagements and separations

During 2011–12, there were 11,258 engagements and 10,213 separations of ongoing employees. The number of engagements included 213 ongoing employees who moved into coverage of the Act. Engagements decreased by 12.2% from the previous year and separations decreased by 2.2%. Figure A1.8 shows ongoing engagements and separations as a proportion of all ongoing employees for the past 15 years. It indicates that the separation rate was relatively steady for the past 12 years.

Figure A1.8 Ongoing engagement and separation rates, 1997–98 to 2011–12

Figure A1.8 is a line graph showing ongoing engagement and separation rates between 1997-98 and 2011-12. The number of engagements have decreased this year while the separation rate has remained relatively steady for the past 12 years.

Source: APSED


During 2011–12, the overall number of engagements decreased by 12.2%, after increasing by 24.3% in 2010–11. This year there were increases in engagements at the APS 5, SES 1, SES 2 and SES 3 classifications. Figure A1.9 shows the strongest growth was at higher classification levels, particularly SES 1–3, although that growth was within the agreed SES cap.12 Engagements of graduate APS employees fell 13.5% from 2010–11.

Figure A1.9 Engagements of ongoing employees by classification, 1997–98 to 2011–12

Figure 1.9 is a line graph showing engagements of ongoing employees by classification between 1997-98 and 2011-12. There was an increase in engagements of APS 5-6 employees to just over 30% of all engagements in 2011-12.

Source: APSED

Women accounted for 54.5% of all ongoing engagements during 2010–11, compared with 57.3% of all ongoing employees at June 2012.

Figure A1.10 shows engagements fell in the under 25, 25–34 and 45–55 years age groups. The 55 years and over age group increased slightly in proportional terms (0.3%) after decreasing in 2010–11 by 0.2%. Over the past 15 years, this age group increased from 1.3% of all ongoing engagements to 5.4% in 2010–11. The median age of engagements in 2011–12 was 31 years (32 years for men and 30 years for women).

Figure A1.10 Engagements of ongoing employees by age group, 1997–98 to 2011–12

Figure A1.10 is a line graph showing engagements of ongoing employees by age group between 1997-98 and 2011-12. Engagements decreased in the under 25, 25-34 and 45-55 years age groups, while the 55 years and over age group increased slightly in proportion

Source: APSED

Defence (2,252 or 20.0%), DHS (1,248 or 11.1%) and ATO (890 or 7.9%) accounted for more than one-third of all engagements during 2011–12. These agencies also accounted for more than half the proportion of ongoing employees.

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 2011–12, 43.5% of these employment opportunities were filled by engagement—a decrease from the previous year (44.2%). Of SES employment opportunities, 24.1% were filled by engagement—an increase from the previous year (19.3%). Promotions within an agency accounted for 92.1% of all APS promotions, down slightly from 92.2% in 2010–11.


There were 10,213 separations of ongoing employees during 2011–12, a decrease of 2.2% on the 10,448 separations the previous year. The overall separation rate from the APS was 6.6%, down slightly from 6.9% during 2010–11.

Resignations accounted for approximately half of separations during the year, but fell in proportional terms from previous years. The strongest growth in separations was in retrenchments, which increased by 21.3%, from 1,801 to 2,184. The number of terminations fell by 2.7%, from 187 to 182.

Women accounted for 56.2% of all ongoing separations from the APS during 2011–12, up from 55.1% the previous year, and lower than their overall representation in the APS (57.3% of ongoing employees at June 2012).

The agencies with the largest number of ongoing separations from the APS during the year were DHS (1,918), Defence (1,314) and ATO (1,050). These three agencies accounted for 41.9% of all ongoing separations, somewhat lower than their combined 52.1% of ongoing APS employment.

From an agency perspective the separation rate provides the total loss of employees from the agency. This includes what is known as the agency exit rate—separations from the APS as well as promotions and transfers to other agencies.13 Of agencies with 1,000 or more ongoing employees at June 2012, those with the highest exit rates were Attorney-General's Department (18.7%), FaHCSIA (17.7%), Department of the Treasury (17.0%) and DEEWR (16.4%).

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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 2011–12.

2 For information on the Average Staffing Level (ASL), including calculation and inclusions/ exclusions, refer to the latest Estimates Memorandum from the Department of Finance, or contact the relevant area in the Department at asl [at] finance.gov.au.

3 Sourced from ‘Federal Budget Paper 1, Statement 6: Expenses and Net Capital Investment’, Appendix C. Additional Agency Statistics, Table C5: Estimates of average staffing level of agencies in the Australian Government general sector

4 Growth due to AEC decision to employ staff as non-ongoing employees under the Act, rather than under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

5 In 1998, 103 ongoing employees were employed in other classifications. These are included in the total for that year.

6 The method used to calculate the proportion of employees with graduate qualifications includes those with qualifications at bachelor degree and above. It excludes from the denominator those for whom no data was provided by agencies, and those who chose not to provide details for their highest qualification. At June 2012, 45.6% of ongoing employees had no educational qualification data on APSED.

7 Mobility rates are calculated as the number of promotions or ongoing transfers between agencies during the financial year, divided by the average number of employees at the beginning and end of the financial year. Movements due to machinery-of-government changes are not included in the calculation.

8 Only promotions and transfers between agencies are included in this analysis. Moves due to machinery-of-government changes are excluded.

9 Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration, Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2010).

10 Median length at level includes prior ongoing and non-ongoing service at the same level undertaken before the current period of employment. Periods of temporary assignment are excluded.

11 Non-ongoing employment experience gained before July 1999 is not recorded on APSED, and is excluded from this analysis.

12 The SES cap sets an approved upper limit on the number of SES employees that each APS agency can staff. The SES cap is monitored on a monthly basis to ensure agencies are operating within it.

13 Movements between agencies due to machinery-of-government changes are not included in the exit rate.


Last reviewed: 
30 July 2020