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Size of the APS

At 30 June 2017, there were 152,095 employees in the Australian Public Service. This was a 2.3% decline from 30 June 2016 and the lowest headcount figure since 2006.

  • Since 31 December 2016, numbers have decreased by 0.8% (from 153,297).
  • APS numbers have fallen by 9.1% from their 2012 peak of 167,331.
  • 57% of APS employees are located within four agencies—Human Services (DHS), Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Defence and Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).
  • Ongoing employees made up 90% of the APS workforce at June 2017.

Size of APS

At 30 June 2017, there were 152,095 employees in the APS which included:

  • 137,255 ongoing employees (90.2%);
  • 14,840 non-ongoing employees (9.8%)
  • 6,698 employed for a specified term or task; and
  • 8,142 employed on an irregular/intermittent basis.

The proportion of non-ongoing employees has fallen from 11.4% in 2016.Over the past decade the overall APS headcount has fallen to 152,095; from a peak of over 167,000 in June 2012 - driven by annual declines in ongoing employees (Figure 2.1).

Figure 2.1: Total headcount by employment status, APS, June 2007 to June 2017

Source: APS Statistical Bulletin 2016-17 – data tables, Table 1a

APS agencies

For the 2016–17 financial year 95 agencies  reported comprehensive APSED data. APSED reporting includes agencies covered by the PS Act 1999. Agencies without APS staff at 30 June 2017 are excluded from reporting, and several small agencies that cannot be separately identified for confidentiality purposes are included in their parent departments. See Appendix 4 for further details.

At 30 June 2017, the largest 4 agencies in the APS accounted for 57% of the total APS workforce (Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2: Top four agencies by headcount, 30 June 2017

Source: APS Statistical Bulletin 2016-17 – data tables, Table 2d

Size of agencies

APS agencies vary considerably in size. During 2016–17 there were:

  • 24 agencies of 1,000 employees or more (including 4 agencies of over 10,000);
  • 25 medium agencies—with between 250 and 1,000 employees;
  • 46 agencies with fewer than 250 employees (Table 21).

Almost half (48%) of APS agencies had fewer than 250 employees, however due to their size they only made up 3.1% of the total APS headcount (Figure 2.3). Medium-sized agencies accounted for over a quarter (26%) of all agencies, but only 7.7% of employees.

Figure 2.3: Staff headcount and agency numbers by agency size, 30 June 2017

Source: APS Statistical Bulletin 2016-17 – data  tables, Table 21

Agencies by function

APS agencies can also be broken down into four major categories describing their key functions:

  • Operational—agencies involved in the implementation of public policy.
  • Policy—agencies involved in the development of public policy.
  • Regulatory—agencies involved in regulation and inspection.
  • Specialist—agencies providing specialist support to government.

For a full list of agencies by function, see: https://stateoftheservice.apsc.gov.au/learn-more/aps-agencies-size-and-function/

In 2016–17, 44% of all agencies were in the specialist category (Figure 2.4). However, only 6.3% of APS employees worked within these agencies. Another 70% of employees worked in the 22 operational agencies, with a further 20% in policy agencies.

Figure 2.4: Staff headcount and agency numbers by agency type, 30 June 2017

Source: APS Statistical Bulletin 2016-17 – data  tables, Table 21

Coverage and Machinery of Government changes

During 2016–17 there was a number of changes to agencies, which need to be taken into account when analysing trends in APS headcounts. This included:

  • Two agency mergers affecting 266 ongoing and 19 non-ongoing employees;
  • 109 additional ongoing employees brought into coverage as part of the National Disability Insurance Agency; and
  • A range of Machinery of Government changes leading to the transfer of 639 ongoing and 25 non-ongoing employees from one agency to another.

See Appendix 3 for details of these coverage changes, along with a historical breakdown of employee numbers moving in and out of coverage under the PS Act since 30 June 2002.

Last reviewed: 
11 February 2019