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Section 2: Size and Shape of the APS

At 31 December 2019, there were 144,704 employees in the Australian Public Service (APS). This was a drop of 2,101 employees (1.4%) from the same time in 2018. From 31 December 2018 to 30 June 2019, there was an increase of 51 (0.03%) employees followed by a decrease of 2152 (1.5%) employees from 30 June 2019 to 31 December 2019.  
APS employee numbers have fallen by 13.5% from their peak of 167,341 in June 2012.

Figure 2.1: APS employee headcounts, December 2000 – December 2019

Source:  APSED December 2019 Table 1

At 31 December 2019, the APS included:

  • 129,732 ongoing employees (89.7%)
  • 14,972 non-ongoing employees (10.3%), of which:
  • 7,230 were employed for a specified term or task
  • 7,742 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 (excluding Machinery of Government changes) over the 2019 calendar year were from two agencies:

  • Services Australia (previously the Department of Human Services) had a total reduction of 1,521. This figure includes a decrease of 1,684 ongoing and increase of 163 non-ongoing employees.
  • The Australian Taxation Office had a total reduction of 841. This figure includes a decrease of 923 ongoing and an increase of 82 non-ongoing employees.

The largest increases over the 2019 calendar year were:

  • The National Disability Insurance Agency had a total increase of 1116. This figure includes an increase of 740 ongoing and 376 non-ongoing employees.
  • The Attorney’s General Department had an increase of 536 staff, driven by an increase of 449 ongoing employees.
  • The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science had a total increase of 257, of which 216 were ongoing.

At 31 December 2019, the largest four agencies in the APS accounted for 54.9% (79,404 employees) of the total APS workforce. This includes Services Australia (20.8%), the Australian Taxation Office (12.8%), the Department of Defence (11.7%) and the Department of Home Affairs (9.6%) (APSED December 2019 Table 5).
During the 2019 calendar year, there were 2614 employee movements between APS agencies due to Machinery of Government changes1. The majority of these transfers were into:

  • the National Indigenous Australian Agency from the Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet (1,200)
  • the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business from the Department of Education (473)
  • the Attorney General’s Department from the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business (362).

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. A total of 459 employees moved to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission of which 269 came from Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and 190 from the Department of Health.
During the 2019 calendar 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 2 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.

Ongoing

The number of ongoing employees has dropped by 2,563 since 31 December 2018. Ongoing employees make up 89.7% of the APS workforce, down from 90.1% in 2018. The proportion of ongoing employees has changed little over the last 20 years, hovering around 90%. 

Non-ongoing

Non-ongoing employees have increased by 462 over the 2019 calendar year, and as at 31 December 2019 equated to 10.3% 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 51.7% (7,742), while specified term employees made up 44.5% (6,664) at 31 December 2019. 
The number of casuals within the whole APS workforce has risen considerably since 2000 where they comprised 0.5% of the workforce, and peaked at 6.0% of the workforce in 2016 (Figure 2.2). The proportion of casual employees fell to 4.3% in 2017, and continued to increase over 2018 and 2019. As at 31 December 2019, the proportion of casual employees was 5.4%.
Figure 2.2: Composition of APS non-ongoing employees, December 2000 – December 2019

APS Characteristics

Age Profile

The average age of APS employees was 43.7 years as at 31 December 2019 (APSED December 2019 Table 84).
Average age has increased steadily from 40.2 years in 2000. This is in line with the trends in ageing across the general Australian workforce (ABS 3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, June 2019).
The proportion of the APS population that are 50 years or older has increased from 20.1% in 2000 to 33.1% in 2019. Just over eight per cent of APS employees are aged 60 years and over. The number of employees under the age of 30 has declined from 17.5% in 2000 to 12.1% in 2019  (APSED December 2019 Table 24).

Classification Structure

At 31 December 2019, the most common classification across the APS was APS 6 (Figure 2.3). The proportion of APS 6 employees has increased from 18.2% in 2000 to 22.7% in 2019. In 2000, the most common classification was APS 4 (24.0%) but in 2019, this classification represented only 19.0% of employees. APS 4 and APS 6 classifications are the most common levels at which engagements across the APS take place. (APSED December 2019 Table 10).

Figure 2.3: Proportion of APS employees by classification, 31 December 2019

Source: APSED December 2019 Table 10

Geographic distribution of the APS

At 31 December 2019, the largest number of APS employees were located in the Australian Capital Territory (55,603), which represents 38.4% of the APS (Figure 2.4). Collectively, the three largest states by population (New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland) made up 46% of the APS workforce with a total of 66,604 employees.

Figure 2.4: APS employee headcounts and proportion by States and Territories, 31 December 2019

Source: APSED December 2019 Table 12

Regional distribution of APS

As at 31 December 2019, almost one in seven (20,272) or 14.0% of APS employees were located in regional areas outside capital cities. This figure has steadily increased since December 2012 when it was 12.2%. The growth in employee numbers outside of capital cities has predominantly occurred in Victoria (APSED December 2019 Table 15).
In regional areas, New South Wales had the highest proportion of employees at 42.0%, followed by Queensland (25.0%) and Victoria (21.0%). The proportion of the APS working in the capital cities (other than Canberra) has declined from 57.3% in 2000 to 46.6% in 2019 (APSED December 2019 Table 15).

International service

A total of 1,380 APS employees were located overseas at the end of the 2019 calendar year. Agencies that employed large proportions of overseas staff included 928 employees in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (67.2%), 200 in the Department of Home Affairs (14.5%), 143 in the Department of Defence (10.4%) and 65 in the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (4.7%) (APSED December 2019 Table 13).

1 Major Machinery of Government changes were announced in late 2019, which came into effect in January / February 2020. These figures will be reflected in the June 2020 data release.