State of the service

Young employees in the APS

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An earlier APSC post describes the age composition of the APS. Among other trends, it shows there has been a decline in the proportion of young APS employees over the past 50 years. The reasons for this are discussed below.

  • “There has been a decline in the proportion of young APS employees over the past 50 years

During the 1970s more than half the APS was aged less than 30. By 2015 this had dropped to around 10%.

In the under 30 population there are three distinct age groups. The under 20 group, once a large part of the APS, has all but disappeared. The 25–29 group decreased before levelling off at around 9% while the 20–24 group has continued to decrease over time and is now less than 2%.

Figure 1.

Ongoing employees under 30 by age group, 1966 to 2015

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Per cent

June

Figure 1 shows the overall decline in the proportion of young employees’ age groups over the past 50 years. Baby Boomers were over-represented in the APS compared to the Australian population. They were also in their twenties and created a much younger profile of the APS such that during the 1970s more than half the APS was aged less than 30. In contrast, by 2015 that proportion had dropped to around 10%. Figure 1 does show that there are distinct age groups that are aged less than 30. The Under 20 group, once a large part of the APS, has all but disappeared. The 20-24 and 25-29 groups have also decreased and then levelled off at around 5% and 10% respectively. The past two years saw reductions in recruitment and, without normal replenishment, a few thousand employees ‘aged out’ of their respective age groups.

The APS 1 and 2 levels made up more than half of the APS staff until the late 1980s. Their proportion reduced steeply over the following 15 years due to many reasons including the computerisation of office-based work and the outsourcing of trades and labour positions.

Figure 2.

Ongoing employees by classification, 1966 to 2015

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Per cent

June

Figure 2.

The public service exam was the entry path to the APS for many employees up until this centralised testing process ceased in 2000. Those recruited through this process started their careers at the APS 1 level. Over time work at this level was automated, outsourced or otherwise became redundant. Increasingly people were recruited at higher levels after completing university degrees or directly from other sectors.

The concept of a ‘career service’ starting at the APS 1 level no longer exists. The base level of recruitment today is the APS 3–4 levels. This reflects today’s public sector work environment.

The proportion of those recruited at all higher classification groups increased as APS 1–2 positions waned. Until the mid-1980s the APS 1–2 levels constituted over 80% of all recruitment. This fell to below 60% in 1991. It is under 10% today.

In 2014 and 2015 recruitment activity fell for all classifications except Trainees and Graduates.

Figure 3.

Ongoing engagements by selected classification group, 1966 to 2015

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Per cent

June

Figure 3 is a line chart showing .

The average length of service in the APS has increased over time. Higher staff retention is a positive for the APS as knowledge and experience is retained, and the costs of recruitment avoided. However, increased staff retention has led to fewer engagement opportunities for younger recruits.

Figure 4.

Ongoing employees median length of service, 1966 to 2015

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Years

June

Figure 4 is a line chart showing .

As in most organisations, the work of the APS today is more knowledge-based than it was in the past. Along with the automation of transactional administrative work, this is another contributing factor in the change in the overall workforce profile. The work of the APS requires successful candidates to possess a higher level of skill and experience. This is evidenced by the increased proportion of employees with university degrees recruited by the APS.

Figure 5.

Ongoing engagements with a university degree, 1966 to 2015

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Per cent

June

Figure 5 is a line chart showing .

The increase in the proportion of employees with degrees along with the greater experience required at higher classifications has contributed to an upwards shift in the age profile. Essentially this is why there are almost no recruits who are under 20 years of age.

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Read the State of the Service Report 2014–15 on the APSC website.