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At 30 June 2019, there were 147,237 employees in the APS. This was a drop of 3,158 employees (2.1%) from the same time in 2018. From 30 June to 31 December 2018, there was a decrease of 3,232 (2.2%) employees followed by an increase of 74 (0.1%) employees from 31 December 2018 to 30 June 2019.  

APS employee numbers have fallen by 12.0% from their peak of 167,338 in June 2012 (Figure 2.1).

Figure 1: APS employee headcounts, June 2000–June 2019

Source:  APSED June 2019 Table 1

At 30 June 2019 the APS included:

  • 132,192 ongoing employees (89.8%)
  • 15,045 non-ongoing employees (10.2%), of which:
  • 7,204 were employed for a specified term or task
  • 7,841 were employed on an irregular or intermittent basis, known as ‘casual’ employees.

Fluctuations in the overall headcount occur for many reasons including seasonal patterns, business and government requirements and demand. The largest decreases over the last financial year were from three agencies:

  • Services Australia (previously the Department of Human Services) had a total reduction of 2,270. This figure includes a decrease of 1,967 ongoing and 303 non-ongoing employees.
  • The Department of Defence saw an overall reduction of 1,897 staff. This is a net figure that takes into account the movement by the Australian Signals Directorate, out of the Public Service Act 1999 from 1 July 2018.
  • The Australian Taxation Office also had a total reduction of 1,260. This figure includes a decrease of 1,352 ongoing and an increase of 92 non-ongoing employees.

The largest increases over the last financial year were in the:

  • National Disability Insurance Agency who had a total increase of 861. This figure includes an increase of 684 ongoing and 177 non-ongoing employees.
  • Australian Electoral Commission who had an increase of 646 staff. This was exclusively due to an increase of 664 non-ongoing employees of which 616 were casuals. Ongoing employees decreased by 18 staff.  
  • Department of Social Services had a total increase of 223 of which 211 were ongoing.

At 30 June 2019, the largest four agencies in the APS accounted for 54.6% (80,421 employees) of the total APS workforce. This includes Services Australia (20.8%), the Australian Taxation Office (12.8%), the Department of Defence (11.5%) and the Department of Home Affairs (9.6%) (APSED June 2019 Table 4).

During the 2018–19 financial year, there were 798 employee movements between APS agencies due to Machinery of Government changes. The majority of these transfers were into:

  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission from the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (270)
  • The Department of Social Services from the Department of Health (286)
  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission from the Department of Health (191).

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (established on 1 January 2019) replaced the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

On 1 July 2018 the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission was established with 35 employees moving via a Machinery of Government transfer from the Department of Social Services. The Commission has subsequently expanded to a total of 194 employees at 30 June 2019 (APSED June 2019 Table 2).

During the 2018–19 financial year, a number of other changes occurred to the APS structure that had an effect on the spread of headcounts across the APS. See Appendix 1 for details of these coverage changes, along with a historical breakdown of employee numbers moving in and out of coverage under the Public Service Act 1999 from 2000-2001.


The number of ongoing employees has dropped by 3,966 since 30 June 2018. Ongoing employees make up 89.8% of the APS workforce, down from 90.5% in 2018. The proportion of ongoing employees has changed little over the last 20 years, hovering around 90%. 


Non-ongoing employees have increased by 808 over the 2018–19 financial year, and as at 30 June 2019 equated to 10.2% of the APS. Non-ongoing employment consists of three distinct sub-groups: specific term, specific task, and irregular or intermittent (casuals). Of the non-ongoing employees, casuals represented 52.1%, while specified term employees made up 45.1% at 30 June 2019. 

The number of casuals within the whole APS workforce has risen considerably since 2000 (0.6%) and peaked at 6.0% in 2016 (Figure 2.2). Since 2016, the proportion of casual employees has fallen to 4.8% in 2018 before rising to 5.3% in 2019.

Figure 2: Composition of APS non-ongoing employees, June 2000–June 2019

APS Characteristics

Age Profile

The average age of APS employees was 43.6 years as at 30 June 2019. (APSED June 2019 Table 81)

Average age has increased steadily from 39.9 years in 2000. This is in line with the trends in ageing across the general Australian workforce. (ABS 3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, June 2018)

The proportion of the APS population that is 50 years or older has increased from 19.5% in 2000 to 32.9% in 2019. Just over 8% of APS employees are aged 60 years and over. The rate of employees under the age of 30 has declined from 18.3% in 2000 to 12.5% in 2019.  (APSED June 2019 Table 36).

Classification Structure

At 30 June 2019, the most common classification across the APS was APS 6 (Figure 2.3). The proportion of APS 6 employees has increased from 17.7% in 2000 to 22.4% in 2019. In 2000, the most common classification was APS 4 (24.1%) but this has dropped to 19.1% in 2019. APS 4 and APS 6 classifications are the most common levels at which engagements across the APS take place. (APSED June 2019 Table 13).

Figure 3: Proportion of APS employees by classification, at 30 June 2019

Source: APSED June 2019 Table 13

Geographic distribution of the APS

At 30 June 2019, the largest number of APS employees were located in the Australian Capital Territory (55,183), although this represented only 37.5% of the APS(Figure 2.4). Collectively, the three largest states by population (New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland) made up 47% of the APS workforce with a total of 69,230 employees.

Figure 4: APS employee headcounts and proportion by States and Territories at 30 June 2019

Regional distribution of APS

As at 30 June 2019, almost one in seven (20,624) or 14.0% of APS employees were located in regional areas outside capital cities. This figure has steadily increased since June 2012 when it was 12.2%. The growth in employee numbers outside of capital cities has predominantly occurred in Victoria and the Northern Territory (APSED June 2019 Table 12).

In regional areas, New South Wales had the highest proportion of employees at 41.0%, followed by Queensland (25.3%) and Victoria (21.7%). The proportion of the APS working in the capital cities (other than Canberra) has declined from 57.3% in 2001 to 47.6% in 2019. The proportion of employees based in the Australian Capital Territory increased from 32.9% in 2002–03 to 39.7% in 2012 before falling to 37.5% in 2019 (APSED June 2019 Table 12).

International service

A total of 1,415 APS employees were located overseas at the end of the 2018-19 financial year. Agencies that employed large proportions of overseas staff included 948 employees in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (67.0%), 213 in the Department of Home Affairs (15.1%), 141 in the Department of Defence (10.0%) and 70 in the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (4.9%) (APSED June 2019 Table 14).

Last reviewed: 
27 September 2019