2 - The Australian Public Service

2.1 Overview of the Australian Public Service

The Australian Public Service Commission provided the following overview of the Australian Public Service to the National Commission of Audit.

Along with volumes 1 and 2, this volume emphasises the evidence-based approach of the Commission and provides a foundation to the findings and recommendations contained in the Report of the National Commission of Audit.

The following information explores time series demographic and structural patterns for Australian Public Service (APS) employees—those employed under the Public Service Act 1999 (the Public Service Act)—at June 2013, and over the past 10 to 20 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 paper focuses on overall trends in employment, including size, employment status, sex, classification, workforce mobility, age and employee movements. Data in this paper refers to the APS at 30 June 2013. Machinery-of-government changes after that date will be reflected in the State of the Service report for 2013–14.

The workforce data provided in this appendix is as provided in the Australian Public Service Statistical Bulletin 2012-13 using data to 30 June 2013. For consistency, all year-on-year comparisons are based on the financial year. Consistent with normal practice, minor revisions to the June 2013 figures are included in the December 2013 snapshot (see Footnote 1 below). Between 30 June 2013 and 31 December 2013 there was a decrease in the size of the APS by 3,355 or 2.0 per cent. This decrease included a reduction in ongoing employees of 2,077 or 1.4 per cent and a decrease in non-ongoing employees of 1,278 or 8.6 per cent.

APS employment trends

At June 2013, there were 167,257 APS employees, a decrease of 907 or 0.5 per cent from 168,164 employees at June 2012. In 2011–12, APS numbers increased by 1.2 per cent.

APS employees

Figure A1 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 APS employee numbers by the number of employees performing those functions at the time the function moved into or out of coverage of the Public Service Act 1999. Taking into consideration the coverage changes for 2012–13, there was a decrease in APS employees of 0.5 per cent.

Figure A1: APS employees, 1994-2013

As outlined above, Figure A1 shows the change in total APS employee numbers for the past 20 years.

Source: APS Employment Database.

Ongoing and non-ongoing employees

The decrease in employment this year was due mostly to a decrease in ongoing employment, offset by an increase in non-ongoing employment, in both the number and proportion of total employment.

Ongoing employment

At June 2013, there were 152,230 ongoing employees in the APS, a decrease of 1,988 or 1.3 per cent on the previous year. This was the first decrease experienced in ongoing APS employees since 1999.

Figure A2 shows a breakdown of non-ongoing and non-ongoing workforces to show the composition of the total APS workforce over the past 20 years.

Figure A2: Comparison of the numbers of non-ongoing to ongoing employees , 1994-2013

As outlined above, Figure A2 shows a breakdown of non-ongoing and non-ongoing workforces to show the composition of the total APS workforce over the past 20 years.

Source: APS Employment Database.

Non-ongoing employment

The number of non-ongoing employees increased this year to 15,027 at June 2013—an increase of 1,081 or 7.8 per cent. At June 2013, non-ongoing employees accounted for 9.0 per cent of total employment.

Non-ongoing employees can be engaged in three categories: specified term, specified task, and irregular or intermittent duties (casual). At June 2013, 44.9 per cent were engaged for a specified term, 3.6 per cent for a specified task and 51.4 per cent for casual duties. There is considerable variation in agencies' use of these categories.

Each year sees large shifts in the use of non-ongoing employment in individual agencies, suggesting 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 2013, 18 agencies had at least one-quarter of employees engaged on a non-ongoing basis.

Figure A3 shows that since 30 June 2006 the use of causal employment has steadily increased proportionally from 12.4 per cent at 30 June 2006 to 51.4 per cent at 30 June 2013. Over the same period the use of fixed term employment has decreased proportionally from 82.3 per cent to 44.9 per cent.

Figure A3: Non-ongoing employees, by type as a proportion of total non-ongoing employees, 2000-13

As outlined above, Figure A3 shows that since 30 June 2006 the use of causal employment has steadily increased proportionally from 12.4 per cent at 30 June 2006 to 51.4 per cent at 30 June 2013.

Source: APS Employment Database.

Figure A4 shows the classification profile of non-ongoing employees is concentrated at lower levels. At June 2013, the highest proportion of non-ongoing employees were employed at the APS 1–2 classification (44.2 per cent), compared with only 10.0 per cent of Executive Level (EL) employees and 0.5 per cent of Senior Executive Service (SES) employees.

Figure A4: Non-ongoing employee classification profile, 1999-2013

Figure A4 shows the classification profile of non-ongoing employees is concentrated at lower levels.

Source: APS Employment Database.

Male and female employment

The number of women in the APS decreased by 0.1 per cent (96,880 to 96,769), while the number of men decreased by 1.1 per cent (71,284 to 70,488). Women accounted for the majority of APS employees—57.5 per cent of ongoing employment and 57.9 per cent of total employment at June 2013. Trends for total employment by sex are shown in Figure A5.

Figure A5: Total employees by sex, 1999-2013

Trends for total employment by sex are shown in Figure A5.

Source: APS Employment Database.

Classification structures

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

Table A1 compares ongoing employee numbers by classification at June 1999, 2012 and 2013. As can be seen, with the exception of APS 4 and SES 2, the number of employees in all classifications decreased. The number of ongoing employees employed at the graduate APS classification also decreased, by 185 or 12.8 per cent. The classification with the greatest percentage decrease was the trainee classification, with a decrease of 44 or 13.3 per cent. Some agencies engage trainees and graduates at the APS 1–2 and APS 3–4 levels respectively rather than in trainee or graduate classifications, 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, however, the number of EL 1 employees decreased by 0.6 per cent and the number of EL 2 by 0.9 per cent.

This compares to the decrease of 1.3 per cent for all ongoing employees. The number of ongoing SES also decreased, by 33, or 1.2 per cent. The APS 6 classification is the largest in the APS, with 21.6 per cent of all ongoing employees.

Table A1: Ongoing employees by base classification, 1999, 2012 and 2013
Classification 1999 2012 2013 Per cent change 2012 to 2013 Per cent change 1999 to 2013
  # Per cent # Per cent # Per cent    
APS 1 3,837 3.8 863 0.6 776 0.5 -10.1 -79.8
APS 2 9,387 9.2 3,545 2.3 3,282 2.2 -7.4 -65
APS 3 13,838 13.6 18,285 11.9 17,383 11.4 -4.9 25.6
APS 4 23,780 23.3 30,602 19.8 30,623 20.1 0.1 28.8
APS 5 11,255 11 21,510 14 21,325 14 -0.9 89.5
APS 6 18,607 18.2 32,867 21.3 32,837 21.6 -0.1 76.5
EL 1 11,245 11 28,800 18.7 28,634 18.8 -0.6 154.6
EL 2 7,476 7.3 13,201 8.6 13,087 8.6 -0.9 75.1
SES 1 1,191 1.2 2,056 1.3 2,029 1.3 -1.3 70.4
SES 2 328 0.3 581 0.4 581 0.4 0 77.1
SES 3 98 0.1 132 0.1 126 0.1 -4.5 28.6
Trainee 203 0.2 330 0.2 286 0.2 -13.3 40.9
Graduate 688 0.7 1,446 0.9 1,261 0.8 -12.8 83.3
Total 102,010 100 154,218 100 152,230 100 -1.3 49.2

Source: APS Employment Database.

Over the past 20 years, the classification profile of the APS has seen a consistent and strong shift, with a decline in the proportion of employees (Figure A6) at APS 1–2 levels (down 24.6 percentage points), and increases at EL levels (up by 12.8 percentage points) and APS 5–6 levels (up by 9.4 percentage points). As a proportion of all ongoing employees, the SES increased from 1.3 per cent at June 1994 to 1.8 per cent at June 2013.

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 1. Over the past 15 years, the ratio fell from 12.4 employees at lower classifications for each EL 2 to 10.4. As expected, the ratio among agencies varies considerably based on the type of work.

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 outsourcing a number of less complex functions over time.

Figure A6: Classification profile, 1994-2013

As discussed in the text, Figure A6 shows the change in the APS classification profile from 1994 to 2013.

Source: APS Employment Database.

Educational qualifications

APSED data, while incomplete, shows that 59.5 per cent of ongoing employees have graduate qualifications, up from 58.8 per cent last year.2 The proportion is higher for men than for women (63.9 per cent compared with 55.9 per cent). As of 1 July 2013, a new clause in the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2013 requires agency heads to ensure measures are put in place to collect certain personal information from each employee and provide this information to the Commissioner. This requirement includes educational qualifications and diversity information of employees.

Over time, the proportion of APS employees with graduate qualifications has steadily increased. During 2012–13, 71.6 per cent of those engaged had graduate qualifications. This was a decrease on the previous year (73.5 per cent), but considerably higher than the proportion 15 years ago (64.7 per cent in 1998–99).

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 across the APS.

Mobility within the APS

Figure A7 shows how mobility 3 between agencies has varied over the past 15 years, with periods of decline, stability and growth. During 2012–13, the overall mobility rate (1.4 per cent) continued to fall after a sharp rise in the year 2010–11—the promotion rate was 0.4 per cent and transfer rate 0.9 per cent. The promotion rate dropped slightly from the previous year, while the transfer rate dropped even further. In 2013 the total mobility rate—including promotions and transfers—dropped to its lowest level in the 15 years shown in Figure A7.

In general, mobility between agencies is higher at higher classifications, particularly so for women in the SES with a mobility rate of 5.4 per cent. The mobility rate for SES was 3.9 per cent, down from 5.6 per cent the previous year. Mobility for ELs was 2.1 per cent (down from 3.8 per cent in 2011–12) and 1.0 per cent for APS 1–6 (down from 1.8 per cent in 2011–12)

Figure A7: Ongoing employees—promotion and transfer rates between agencies, 1999-2013

As discussed in the text, Figure A7 shows the variation in rates of promotion and transfer between agencies for ongoing employees between 1999 and 2013.

Source: APS Employment Database.

Experience across agencies4

A number of reports5 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 to measure breadth of experience is by looking at the number of agencies APS employees have worked in. Table A2 shows this by classification group at June 2013 and compares it with data for June 1999. 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 the table—the total percentages for 2013 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. Of the current SES employees, 37.8 per cent worked in only one agency compared with 59.5 per cent of EL and 80.4 per cent of APS 1–6. Of the current SES employees, 21.6 per cent worked in four or more agencies, compared with 7.8 per cent of EL and 1.8 per cent of APS 1–6.
Table A2: Ongoing employees—number of agencies worked in, 1999 and 2013
Classification One agency
(per cent)
2–3 agencies
(per cent)
4 or more agencies
(per cent)
  1999 2013 1999 2013 1999 2013
APS 71.6 80.4 25.1 17.8 3.3 1.8
EL 52.9 59.5 34.7 32.6 12.4 7.8
SES 34.3 37.8 41 40.6 24.7 21.6
Total 67.8 74.1 26.9 22.1 5.3 3.8

Source: APS Employment Database.

Length of service

The median length of service for ongoing employees in the APS at June 2013 was 9.0 years, up from 8.8 years at June 2012.

Figure A8 shows that the proportion of ongoing employees with less than five years of service dropped, reflecting the lower levels of engagement of new employees over the past few years. At June 2013, 24.1 per cent of employees were in this group, compared with around 35 per cent for much of the past decade. The proportion with 30 or more years of service was 5.2 per cent at June 2013, an increase of 4.7 per cent from last year.

Figure A8: Ongoing employees—length of service, 1999-2013

As discussed in the text, Figure A8 shows proportion of ongoing employees and their length of service from 1999 to 2013.

Source: APS Employment Database.

APS workforce age profile

At June 2013, the mean age of ongoing employees in the APS was 42.7 years (43.8 for men and 41.8 for women). In 1999, the mean age was 40.2 years.

The largest group is between 50 and 54 years of age (15.1 per cent in 2013, an increase from 14.8 per cent in 2012); however, there was an increase in representation again this year in the 60 years and over age group, which increased from 5.6 per cent of all ongoing employees at June 2012 to 5.9 per cent at June 2013.

Representation of young people (less than 25 years of age) fell again this year. At June 2013, 3.1 per cent of all ongoing employees were in this age group, down from 3.6 per cent last year. This has been a consistent and steady trend—at June 1999, young people accounted for 4.1 per cent of all ongoing employees.

The 60 and over age group had the largest growth (4.3 per cent) in ongoing employment this year. The proportion of employees 55 years of age and over has grown strongly over time, increasing from 6.3 per cent of all ongoing employees at June 1999 to 15.4 per cent at June 2013. This strong growth reflects the impact of government policies to encourage older employees to remain in the APS or return after taking early retirement. It also reflects the removal of compulsory age-65 retirement in 1999, which has facilitated increased recruitment of older employees and reduced separation rates.

Figure A9 shows the shifting age profile of the APS, with an increased representation of older employees coinciding with a decrease in younger employees. This figure shows that the 55 and over age group increased by 9.1 percentage points from 1999 and the 35 to 44 years age group decreased by 5.8 percentage points.

Figure A9: Ongoing employees—change in proportion by age group, 1999 to 2013

As discussed in the text, Figure A9 shows the change in age profile of the APS between 1999 and 2013.

Source: APS Employment Database.

The APS has a more middle-aged age profile than does the Australian labour force (Figure A10).

Figure A10: Age profile of ongoing APS employees and Australian labour force, June 2013

As discussed in the text, Figure A10, shows the age profile of ongoing APS employees and the Australian labour force in June 2013.

Source: APS Employment Database, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Location

In summary, around 40 per cent of APS employees (40.3 per cent of ongoing and 39.1 per cent of all) are located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). This proportion has risen steadily for many years although there was a slight decrease in 2013 from the previous year. In 1999, for example, 37.1 per cent of ongoing employees were based in the ACT. Generally, the proportion of employees located in the ACT increases at higher classifications. For example, at June 2013, 61.5 per cent of all ongoing EL employees and 75.8 per cent of all ongoing SES were in the ACT, compared with 21.3 per cent of APS 1–2 and 17.2 per cent of APS 3–4. Table A3 shows the classification profile, by location, for ongoing employees at June 2013.

Although the APS is centred in the ACT, there is considerable variation among agencies in the level of employment inside and outside of the ACT. At June 2013, 26 out of 104 agencies had all of their ongoing employees in the ACT, 16 had none and 26 had less than one third.

Table A3: Ongoing employees—proportion by classification and location, June 2013
Classification Proportion in each jurisdiction (per cent)
  ACT NSW Vic. Qld SA WA Tas. NT Overseas All
APS 1–2 21.3 25.4 18.0 15.1 8.5 5.3 3.0 3.5 0.0 100.0
APS 3–4 17.2 26.7 21.1 15.5 7.0 6.9 3.8 1.9 0.0 100.0
APS 5–6 43.4 16.3 15.4 10.0 6.3 4.3 2.0 1.6 0.7 100.0
EL 61.5 10.3 11.4 6.2 4.5 2.4 1.0 0.7 2.0 100.0
SES 75.8 6.0 6.5 2.6 1.4 1.0 0.4 0.5 5.8 100.0
Trainee and graduate 62.7 9.0 10.0 7.2 4.6 2.8 0.5 2.5 0.6 100.0
All 40.3 17.9 16.0 10.7 6.0 4.5 2.3 1.5 0.9 100.0

Source: APS Employment Database.

Engagements and separations

During 2012–13, there were 7,655 engagements and 9,593 separations of ongoing employees. The number of engagements included 12 ongoing employees who moved into coverage of the Public Service Act. Engagements decreased by 32.2 per cent from the previous year and separations decreased by 7.2 per cent. Figure A11 shows a comparison between the proportion of engagements and separations broken down into two major types, natural attrition and other. Included in Figure 11 are events that have influenced the percentage of engagements and separation for the past 20 years.

Figure A11: Proportion of engagements and separations, 1994 to 2013

As discussed in the text, Figure A11, shows a comparison between the proportion of engagements and separations from 1994 to 2013.

Source: APS Employment Database.

Natural attrition includes resignations and age retirements and excludes all other separation types, including retrenchments, invalidity retirement, deaths and termination of appointment. Figure A11, shows the natural attrition rate for the APS in 2012–13 was 4.1 per cent, down from 4.9 per cent in 2011–12 and 5.2 per cent in 2010–11.

Reference

The following reference was used in the production of corresponding material in Chapter 3 of the Phase Two Report:

Acherly, C 2014, Why Public Service Managers Can Do More, Government News, 16 January 2014.

Footnotes:

1 The Australian Public Service 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 2012–13.

2 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 2013, 45.3 per cent of ongoing employees had no educational qualification data on APSED.

3 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.

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

5 For example: 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).