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Each year large numbers of employees move into and within the APS. During the 2018–2019 financial year there were 24,512 movements consisting:

  • 8,564 people engaged as ongoing employees
  • 11,172 current employees promoted within their agency
  • 1,272 current employees promoted to another APS agency
  • 2,569 employees transferred permanently to another APS agency
  • 935 employees temporarily transferred to another APS agency.

This equates to 18.3% of ongoing staff taking up initial employment or changing jobs within the APS in the year to 30 June 2019. The true mobility of the APS is however higher and includes internal moves within each agency. APSED data does not include movements at-level within agencies, or secondments among agencies. 

Engagements of ongoing employees into the APS fell by 4.9% (8,564 new employees) compared to the year to 30 June 2018, which saw 9,005 new employees. Since the 2000–2001 financial year, trends in engagements have fluctuated from 2,366 during the recruitment freeze in 2014–2015 to a peak of 20,949 in 2005–2006 (APSED June 2019 Table 45).

Most engagements during the 2018–2019 financial year were at the APS 6 (19.1%), APS 4 (18.4%), and APS 5 (17.8%) levels (APSED June 2019 Table 46).

Approximately 40% of people engaged as ongoing employees were under the age of 30 years compared to just 10.4% of the ongoing APS workforce (APSED June 2019 Table 45).

Multi-agency experience

The majority of APS employees have only worked in one agency. At 30 June 2019, 70.1% of ongoing APS employees had worked in one agency, 18.7% in two agencies and 11.2% in three or more agencies (APSED June 2019 Table 40).

The proportion of APS employees with multi-agency experience varied based on some key demographics. For example, ongoing employees who have worked in multiple agencies are:

  • in relatively senior roles, including 64.2% of SES and 42.9% of EL
  • located in the Australian Capital Territory — 45.9%
  • working in micro agencies of 20 staff or fewer — 63.4%
  • working in policy agencies — 52.2%.

The drivers behind these variables are arguably related. Most policy agencies are located within the Australian Capital Territory, which affects the mobility rates behind both location and agency type. Seniority is linked to employee’s tenure in the APS. The average length of service of SES is 18.9 years, affording them a greater opportunity to work across multiple agencies.

Movements between agencies and temporary transfers

As a whole, movements between agencies are a relatively small part of the mobility picture across the APS. In the 2018–2019 financial year, a total of 4,776 or 3.6% of ongoing employees moved to another agency within the APS either via a permanent move, as a promotion, or as a temporary transfer. Over the past 20 years this rate has remained fairly steady, only fluctuating between 1.5% and 3.6%.

A temporary transfer is the movement of an APS employee to another APS agency, at any level, for a specified period of time with the intention that the employee will return to their home agency.

At 30 June 2019, there were 935 temporary transfers across the APS, representing 3.8% of all movements. This was an increase of 255 during the 2017-2018 financial year and the second highest number after the 2010-2011 financial year (Figure 9).  

The four largest agencies (Services Australia, the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Defence and the Department of Home Affairs) make up 54.6% of the APS, but only 5.8% of temporary transfers during the 2018-2019 financial year. The agencies that made up a significant number of temporary transfers were the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (8.3%), the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (7.7%), the National Disability Insurance Agency (5.6%) and the Department of Health (5.5%).

The data indicates that an agency’s size, function and location is linked to the frequency of temporary transfers.  

Employees working in Human Resources, Strategic Policy, Communications and Marketing, Project and Programme job roles are also more likely to go on temporary transfer. Conversely, employees in Service Delivery, Science and Intelligence are less likely to go on temporary transfer.

Almost three-quarters (71.6%) of temporary transfers were within the Australian Capital Territory despite this region making up only 37.5% of the APS.

A majority of temporary transfers to another APS agency were at the same classification level(figure 4.1). Since the 2009–2010 financial year, the proportion of temporary transfers at the same classification level ranged from 72.7% to 80.1%. In contrast, between the 2001-02 and 2005-06 financial years there was little difference in the number of temporary transfers at level and higher duties.

Figure 4.1: Temporary transfer at level or with higher duties, and year, 2000-2001 to 2018-2019.

Women are more likely to go on temporary transfer than men. During 2018–2019, 67.0% of temporary transfers were undertaken by female employees. Over the last 20 years, 66.0% of employees who went on temporary transfer were women. This has been consistent over time ranging from 60.3% during the 2000-2001 financial year to a peak of 71.4% in the 2008-2009 financial year.

Women in general are more mobile than men. As well as temporary transfers, women also represent a greater proportion of permanent inter-agency movements. For example, during the 2018-2019 financial year, women made up 65.5% of transfers/promotions to other APS agencies.

Transfer by classification

As at 30 June 2019, the highest proportion of temporary transfers were at the APS 5-6 levels (41.8%) followed closely by EL’s (36.0%). APS 3-4’s made up 18.1% of temporary transfers, 3.4% were at the SES level and only 0.5% were APS 1-2’s. Relative to their population size, EL’s and SES are more likely to go on temporary transfer while APS 1-2’s and APS 3-4’s are less likely. 

Figure 4.2: Comparison of APS employees on temporary transfer with the APS population by classification level, 30 June  2019

Length of temporary transfer

The median length of time employees go on temporary transfer to another agency is six months. This has remained consistent over the last 15 years. Since 2000, just over 37% of employees who went on temporary transfer ended up moving permanently to that agency within six months of the temporary transfer ending.


Employees separate from the APS through a number of mechanisms, including resignations, termination of employment, retrenchment, age retirement, physical or mental incapacity, death or compulsory movement to a non-APS agency. During the 2018–2019 financial year, there were 12,100 separations of ongoing employees, the highest number since the 2007-2008 financial year.  Unlike engagements, separations have remained relatively stable over time, generally fluctuating between 7,000 and 13,000 employees per year (figure 4.3). (APSED June 2019 Table 62)

Resignations are consistently the most common separation type, and comprised 38.8% of all separations over the 2018–2019 financial year

Retrenchments were the second highest separation type across the APS making up 21.6%. Retrenchments continue to fall as a proportion of all separations from a peak of 42.7% of separations during the 2014–2015 financial year.

Trend data indicates the close relationship between numbers of resignations and retrenchments. Generally, resignations will fall as the number of retrenchments rise. The exception to this trend can be seen for the 2018-2019 period, where some agencies compulsorily transferred to non APS agencies, reflected as ‘other’ in Figure 11. This had an impact on the number of resignations and retrenchments.

Age retirements are the third most common separation type with 20.5% over the 2018–2019 financial year. This has decreased slightly from 23.1% during the 2016–2017 financial year. (APSED June 2019 Table 62).

The number of separations in the 2018 – 2019 financial year also included movement of employees from the Australian Signals Directorate in Defence out of coverage of the Public Service Act 1999 on 1 July 2018.

Figure 4.3: Separations by type, 30 June 2000 – 30 June 2019

Source:  APSED June 2019 Table 62

Last reviewed: 
27 September 2019