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Fifty years of APS employment data

The assessment of the state of the service is underpinned by comprehensive data and information collected each year on the APS workforce.

The APS Employment Database records the employment data of all current and former APS employees. The year 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the collection of APS employment data. Needless to say, the Australian Public Service has changed dramatically over the past 50 years.

In 1966, there were 97,416 ongoing staff employed in the then named Commonwealth Service across 24 departments.6 The departments included the Department of Repatriation, the Department of National Development and the Department of Labour and National Service. In contrast, in 2016 the APS has 137,848 ongoing employees in 98 agencies. The responsibilities of these agencies reflect the changing priorities of the federal public service and include the Digital Transformation Office, the Organ and Tissue Authority and the Clean Energy Regulator.

In 1966, almost 58 per cent of ongoing employees in the Commonwealth Service were employed at the APS 1 and APS 2 classification levels. Executive Level staff comprised 5.6 per cent of the workforce. The removal of typing pools and computerisation changed the makeup of the APS. In 2016, employees at the APS 1 and APS 2 classification levels represent only 2.3 per cent of the ongoing APS workforce. Executive Level employees now comprise more than 26 per cent of ongoing APS employees.

Women made up 23 per cent of the ongoing Commonwealth Service in 1966, compared to 58 per cent of the APS in 2016. Around 92 per cent of women employed in the Commonwealth Service in 1966 were engaged at the APS 2 or lower classification levels, with many employed as typists, clerks and clerical assistants. Only 50 per cent of male Commonwealth Service personnel were employed at these same levels.

Only 15 per cent of ongoing Commonwealth Service employees in 1966 were located in the Australian Capital Territory. By 2016, Canberra had grown substantially and some 39 per cent of APS employees are now working in the territory.

As the Australian workforce has become older over time, so has the APS workforce. In 2016, the average age of an ongoing APS employee is 43.5 years. In 1966, it was just 34.5 years. From 1966 to 2016, the proportion of the ongoing workforce aged 55 years or older more than doubled from 8.1 per cent to 17.3 per cent.

The Commonwealth Service in 1966 experienced some significant changes to its employment policies. The bar that prohibited married women from being employed in the Commonwealth Service was lifted in late 1966. Australia was the last democratic nation to lift this restriction.





6 This headcount does not include employees of the Postmaster-General's Department and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.

Last reviewed: 
31 May 2018