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Each year large numbers of employees move into and within the APS. These movements can be tracked using the APS Employment Database (APSED).

During 2018, there were 23,028 movements consisting of:

  • 8,632 people engaged as ongoing employees.
  • 10,121 current employees promoted within their agencies to ongoing positions.
  • 1,069 current employees promoted to another APS agency.
  • 2,463 employees transferred permanently to another APS agency.
  • 743 employees temporarily transferred to another APS agency.

This equates to 17.4% of the APS changing roles in the year to 31 December 2018. The true mobility of the APS is however higher. APSED data does not include movements (at-level) within agencies, or secondments among agencies. 

Engagements of new ongoing employees in the APS fell by 6.4% (8,632 new employees) compared to the year to December 2017 engagements (9,222 employees). Since 2001, trends in engagements have fluctuated from 2,702 during the recruitment freeze in 2014 to a peak of 19,446 during 2007, (APSED December 2018 Table 43).

Most engagements in 2018 were at the APS 4 level (19.5%), APS 6 level (17.1%), and at APS 5 and APS 3 levels (14.8% each), (APSED December 2018 Table 43).

Overall, 41.8% of ongoing engagements were people under the age of 30 years compared with just 12.2% of employees in the APS workforce below 30 years of age, (APSED December 2018 Table 42).

Movements between agencies and multi-agency experience

As a whole, movements between agencies are a relatively small part of the mobility picture across the APS. In 2018, a total of 4,275 ongoing employees moved to another agency within the APS via promotion or transfer at level. This equates to 3.2% of ongoing employees having moved between agencies either permanently or as a temporary transfer. Over the past 20 years this rate has been quite stable, fluctuating between 1.5% and 3.7%.

Overall, the majority of APS employees have experience working in a single agency. At 31 December 2018, 71.5% of all APS employees had worked only in one agency, 17.9% in two agencies and 10.5% in three or more agencies.

The proportion of APS employees with multi-agency experience varied based on some key demographics. For example, the overall proportion of employees who have worked in more than one agency are:

  • In relatively senior roles, including SES at 62.7% and EL at 42.4%.
  • Located in the ACT—44.8%.
  • In micro agencies of 20 staff or fewer—60.4%.
  • Working in policy agencies—50.4%.

The drivers behind these variables are related; for example, most policy agencies are located within the ACT, which affects the mobility rates behind both location and agency type. Seniority is also linked to the time people have worked in the APS, with the average length of service of SES being 18.6 years, and therefore have a greater opportunity to work across multiple agencies.


Employees separate from the APS through a number of mechanisms, including resignations, termination of employment, retrenchment, age retirement, physical or mental incapacity, death and compulsory movement to non-APS agency. In 2018, there were 12,558 separations of ongoing employees.  Unlike engagements, separations have remained relatively stable over time, generally fluctuating between 7,000 and 13,000 employees per year. (APSED December 2018 Table 57)

Resignations were the most common separation type (39.4%) in 2018. Resignations make up the highest proportion of separations each year.

Retrenchments were the second highest separation type across the APS making up 23.2%. Retrenchments continue to fall as a proportion of all separations from a peak making up 52.1% during 2014.

Trend data indicates the close relationship between numbers of resignations and retrenchments. Generally, resignations will fall as the number of retrenchments rise.

Age retirements are the third most common separation type with 19.2% in 2018. This has decreased slightly from 23.3% during 2017. (APSED December 2018 Table 57).

The number of separations also included 1movement employees from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) in Defence, out of coverage of the PS Act.

Figure 7: Separations by type December 2000–2018

Source: APSED December 2018 Table 57

Last reviewed: 
1 April 2019