Chapter FourWho we are

It is important that within a community, the diversity of the general public be reflected by those employed within its public sector. This creates a more cohesive, inclusive and well represented society1. The NSW public sector is increasingly focused on developing a diverse and inclusive workforce that includes people of different genders, and cultural and linguistic backgrounds; Aboriginal people; and people with disability. It is also working to increase diversity in broader dimensions such as education, knowledge, skills, work styles, experience, values and ideas. 

Workforce Profile data aims to provide an accurate representation of the diversity of employees within the NSW public sector. This allows for any disparities in representation of certain diversity group within the NSW public sector to be identified and reported on. This influences the course of action when developing policy - such as setting new diversity targets, or introducing new inclusive employment initiatives.

Challenges remain in understanding and measuring the level of diversity in the NSW public sector. Workforce Profile data on diversity groups is collected on a voluntary basis, which requires employees to self-identify. This often leads to under-reporting as some employees may feel identifying with a diversity group may not be relevant to their role, they may have a fear of stigma or discrimination, or they may not have access to update their diversity status. The response rate to diversity questions continues to improve providing confidence in the results.

Median age in 2017
45 years


Employees 55 & over
24.4% in 2017 (+7.1pp vs. 2007)


Employees under 35
25.5% (2017) vs 24.4% (2007)

Diversity Response Rate2
77.2% in 2017 (+1.0pp vs. 2016)

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander - Estimate
3.2% in 2017 (+0.1pp vs. 2016)

People whose Language First Spoken as a Child was not English - Estimate
18.4% in 2017 (+0.4pp vs. 2016)

Employees reporting Disability - Estimate
2.7% in 2017 (-0.1pp vs. 2016)

People from Racial, Ethnic, Ethno-Religious Minority Groups - Estimate
13.2% in 2017 (no change vs. 2016)


The median age of NSW Public Sector employees remains unchanged since 2008. The median in 2017 was 45 years for males and 44 years for females. At June 2016, the median age of the New South Wales population3 was 37.6 years, up from 36.8 years at June 2006. The median age of males in 2016 was 36.7 years compared with 38.5 years for females. This indicates that the NSW Public Sector workforce tended to be older than the NSW population.

Table 4.1 Median age and proportion of employees > 45 years by service, at census date

Service Median Age %>45 years
Public Service 46 53.3%
NSW Health Service 44 47.7%
NSW Police Force 40 34.1%
Teaching Service 43 45.4%
Transport Service 47 57.6%
Other Crown Services 50 67.0%
Total Government Sector 45 50.2%
External to Government Sector 49 59.6%
State Owned Corporations 45 51.4%
Total Public Sector 45 50.3%

Table 4.1 shows the NSW Public Sector’s median age by service at census date and the percentage representation of employees above the sector’s median age in each service.

The NSW Police Force had the lowest median age (40 years), the highest proportion of employees aged under 35 (32.3% compared with 25.5% across the sector) and the lowest proportion of employees aged 55 and over (8.9% compared with 24.4% across the sector). The Police Force has aged though when compared to 2014, when their median age was 38, the proportion under 35 was 36.5% and only 7% of the workforce was aged over 55.

Other Crown services had the highest median age (50 years). Within other Crown services, 58.2% of ‘Clerical and Administrative workers’ had a median age of 52 years and 55.7% of the ‘Professionals’ in this service were above 51 years of age.

The age diversity of employees brings significant benefits such as diverse skill sets, varied experiences, talent and knowledge sharing4to the workforce. The proportion of public sector employees 44 years and younger has remained relatively constant, decreasing from 50.3% in 2007 to 49.7% in 2017 (refer Figure 4.1). The proportion of Public Sector employees aged between 45 and 54 reduced from 32.3% in 2007 to 25.9% in 2017, while the 55 and over age group increased from 17.4% (2007) to 24.4% (2017) of the total workforce. Workforce planning efforts across agencies need to consider the impact of a quarter of the workforce moving towards retirement over the next decade, many of these in senior roles.


The NSW Public Sector is an older workforce compared to the total NSW workforce. Figure 4.2 shows that there is a higher proportion of NSW Public Sector workers aged 55 and over (24.4% compared with 18.6% in the NSW workforce5) and proportionately far fewer workers aged 34 and under (25.5% in Public sector vs 38.4% in NSW workforce).


As a point of comparison, in 2016, the Victorian Public Sector6 had a similar age distribution as the NSW Public Sector, with the greatest difference being in the 25 to 34 range (21.5% in NSW and 25.0% in Victoria in 2016).


The age profile of the workforce across the public sector is varied. Figure 4.4 below shows the trends in the concentration of the workforce across the various services. The lower proportion (3.6%) of employees under 25 reflects in part that a high proportion of occupations in the sector require a qualification. The NSW Police Force had only 0.8% of its employees above 65 years of age whereas Transport Service has 6.1%. Major concentrations of the NSW Police Force and Teaching Service were in the 25 to 44 age group, whereas the other Crown services tended to be around the 45 to 54 age group. Above the age of 60, the number of employees dropped dramatically, and this drop was consistent across the services. This is reflected in the median retirement age7 for the Public Sector of 61.

Figure 4.4: Age Profile of Total Sector and by service, non-casual, 2017



The number and proportion of non-casual women in the NSW public sector has been increasing for over a decade, up from 59.5% in 2007 to 64.6% in 2017. The NSW public sector traditionally employs a higher proportion of women than the NSW labour force8 which was 44.8% in 2007 and 46.9% in 2017. The higher proportion of women in the Public Sector is driven by the high representation of women in the two largest clusters, Education (77.8%) and Health (74.6%). Education and Health make up 49.3% of the total NSW public sector non-casual headcount. In contrast, the Transport cluster had the lowest representation of women (23.7%).

The three largest ANZSCO Minor Groups - ‘School Teachers’, ‘Midwifery and Nursing Professionals’, and ‘General Clerks’, accounted for close to a third (32.3%) of the total non-casual headcount. All of these groups had a high proportion of female employees (77.1%, 86.8% and 89.7% respectively).

Table 4.2: Public Sector representation of women by cluster, non-casual headcount, 2017

Cluster Women Total Public Sector Women %
Education 75,798 97,430 77.8%
External to Government Sector 597 1,291 46.2%
Family & Community Services 10,472 14,091 74.3%
Finance, Services & Innovation 4,525 7,577 59.7%
Health 96,125 128,874 74.6%
Industry 8,207 14,911 55.0%
Justice 16,283 41,165 39.6%
Planning & Environment 5,406 13,788 39.2%
Premier & Cabinet 863 1,371 62.9%
Transport 6,474 27,259 23.7%
Treasury 746 1,234 60.5%
Total Public Sector 225,496 348,991 64.6%

Although there has been a reduction in the size of the NSW public sector by 2.2% since 2012, there has been a 4.3% increase in the female workforce.


Further, this positive change in the female workforce is also evident at the higher salary bands (refer Figure 4.6). Since 2012 the female non-casual headcount at the Grade 11/12 level has increased by 20.4% and at the Senior Executive level it has an increase of 57.9%.

Despite the high level of representation across the sector, women remained under-represented in the higher salary levels when compared to men and as a proportion of their overall representation in the sector, further explored in Chapter 7.


To address this imbalance, the Premier has made it a priority to increase the proportion of women in senior leadership roles in the Government Sector to 50% by 2025. The representation of women in senior leadership roles varied across clusters but increased in nearly all of them between 2014 and 2017 (refer Figure 4.7).


Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander

In 2017, an estimated 3.2% of non-casual employees identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, a slight increase from 3.1% in 2016. The number and proportion of employees in this group has increased progressively over time (see Figure 4.8 and Figure 4.9). When compared to the other jurisdictions, Victoria6 (0.4% in 2016) is trending upwards since 2012 while Queensland9 (2.0% in 2015) has reported a decline over a similar period.


As at Census date 2017, 8,615 employees identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders compared to 6,685 in 2012 (an increase of 1,930). This equates to an increase of 28.9% in headcount for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees since 2012. While coming from a low base the percentage increase of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees at each grade has been greater than the change seen at the same level for the public sector.


Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees remained over-represented in the lower salary bands while the higher grades were under-represented. Part of this may be driven by the fact that this cohort is generally younger in comparison to the total sector, and are in the early stage of their career progression.

The NSW Public Sector has two initiatives underway which aim to address this imbalance.

The 'NSW Public Sector Aboriginal Employment Strategy 2014-2017', aims to improve the distribution of Aboriginal employees at all levels of the sector, with an aspirational target of 1.8% representation across all classifications by 2021. Figure 4.10 shows the progress that has been made since 2014 toward achieving this aspirational target.


In addition, one of the NSW Premier's priorities introduced in 2015 is to double the number of Aboriginal people in senior leadership roles by 2025 from 57 in 2014 to 114 across the Government Sector. In 2017, there were 71 Aboriginal leaders included in the senior leadership group. The table 4.3 below shows the progress that sector is making in meeting these targets.

Table 4.3: Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander senior leaders, Premier’s Priorities, Government Sector – headcount, 2014 – 2017

Cluster 2014 2015 2016 2017
Education 22 18 29 30
Family & Community Services 9 8 5 7
Finance, Services & Innovation 0 3 3 2
Health 3 3 4 6
Industry 0 1 1 1
Justice 16 17 13 13
Planning & Environment 0 0 0 0
Premier & Cabinet 1 3 2 3
Transport 3 2 5 8
Treasury 3 0 1 1
Government Sector Total 57 55 63 71

People with disability

In 2017, an estimated 2.7% of Public Sector employees have identified themselves as having disability, a decrease from last year’s estimate of 2.8%. The number and proportion of employees in this group has been declining since 2008. Victoria6 and Queensland9 Public Sectors have also reported a decline across the similar period.


As at census date in 2017, there were 7,176 employees who identified as having disability in comparison to 9,630 in 2012. This equates to a 25.5% decrease since 2012.

There has also been a 24.8% decline in the figures for disability requiring adjustment since 2012.

The proportion of people with disability is higher in salary bands (i.e. grade 7/8 to grade 11/12), in comparison to the Public Sector. This aligns with the older median age (51 years) identified in more senior grades and with the notion that disability is something that can be acquired over time. The median tenure for the people with disability was 14.4 years, higher than the public sector (9.3 years).


The age distribution of this cohort is noticeably different to the total sector, as seen in Figure 4.13. For people with disability, there was a higher proportion of employees aged 45 years and over compared to the total sector (68.3% vs 50.3%), with these differences becoming greater in the 55 to 64 year age group.


With a higher proportion of this cohort in the 55+ age groups, this is reflected in the relatively high incidence of separations. Retirements account for 20.6% of separations for people with disability, compared to 12.1% for the Public sector. This is further evidenced as the proportion of employees with disability separating from their agency is more than double the number commencing, whereas for the broader NSW public sector the gap is much narrower. 

Table 4.4: Movements – Disability vs Public Sector, 2017

Movements Disability % Public Sector %
Continuous employees 83.7% 83.5%
Recently commenced employees 4.7% 7.1%
Separated employees 11.6% 9.4%

People whose language first spoken as a child was not English

An estimated 18.4% of the Public Sector’s non-casual workforce have identified that their first language spoken as a child was not English, an increase from 18.0% in 2016. Within the NSW public sector, the proportion of the workforce who indicated that their first language spoken was not English has increased progressively.


As at census date in 2017, 49,551 non-casual employees identified that their first language spoken was not English in comparison to 40,126 in 2012, which equates to a 23.5% increase since 2012.

There was an increase in headcount for this diversity group across all salary grades from 2012 to 2017, with the largest increase of 59.0% at the senior executive cohort, followed by 39.7% at grade 5/6. This change was driven by ‘Midwifery and Nursing Professionals’ who accounted for more than half of this diversity group. Over half (55.9%) of the workforce whose first language spoken was not English were working in professional roles across the sector.


The median age of the employees whose first language is not English is 43 years in comparison to 45 for public sector. Also the median tenure for this diversity group is 7 years, in comparison to 9.3 years for Public sector.

Median remuneration for this diversity cohort was at parity with the public sector at $83,689.

Nearly half (45.5%) of those in this diversity group also identified as being from a racial, ethnic, or ethno-religious minority group.

Figure 4.16 shows over-representation tended to occur in the younger age groups (25 to 34 and 35 to 44) compared to the total sector, while under-representation tended to occur in the older age groups (45 to 54 and 55 to 64).


Racial, ethnic, or ethno-religious minority group

In 2017, an estimated 13.2% of the NSW Public Sector’s non-casual workforce identified as being from a racial, ethnic, or ethno-religious minority group.


As at census date in 2017, 35,568 non-casual employees indicated that they were from a racial, ethnic or ethno-religious minority in comparison to 34,372 in 2012, which equates to a 3.5% increase since 2012.

Figure 4.18 demonstrates where this group is over or under represented by each grade when compared to the rest of the sector. The ‘racial, ethnic, or ethno-religious minority’ diversity group was over-represented in all salary bands except for the lowest two bands. Notably, in this diversity group there is over-representation in the ‘senior officer & senior executive’ salary band, suggesting that the leadership of the NSW public sector are relatively diverse in terms of racial, ethnic, or ethno-religious minority groups.


54.5 % of employees in this diversity groups were working as professionals. Occupational groups with the highest percentage of people from minority groups were: ‘Accountants, Auditors and Company Secretaries’ (26.3%), ‘Medical Practitioners’ (23.9%), 20.8% of ‘Business and Systems Analysts, and Programmers’ and 20.8% of Engineering Professionals’ are from ‘racial, ethnic, or ethno-religious minority’ diversity group.

Around two-thirds (63.3 %) of people in this diversity group also identified that their first language spoken as a child was not English.

The median age, median tenure and median remuneration of the workforce in this diversity group was similar to the NSW public sector overall. Figure 4.19 shows representation of minority groups compared to the total sector by age. It can be seen that differences are small and not as pronounced as those between some of the other diversity groups and the total sector.


End Notes

1 - OECD (2015, pp. 27). Government at a Glance 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris.
2 - Estimated figures are generated from the diversity responses contained within agency’s human resource systems. The quality of this estimate is directly impacted by the response rates to the diversity questions. Where response rates are low there is low confidence in the estimates. The Public Service Commission introduced a cluster level diversity response threshold of 65% in 2014 to both draw focus to the issue and improve confidence in the estimates. Where response rates fall under the threshold, estimates are not calculated.
3 - Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3235.0 - Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, New South Wales, 2016
4 - Profili, S, Sammarra, A and Innocenti, L. (2017, pp. 161). Age Diversity in the Workplace: An Organizational Perspective, Emerald Group Publishing
5 - Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery, August 2016 (6291.0.55.001) – released 22 September 2016
6 - State of Public Sector report, Victoria, 2016
7 - Includes employee-initiated retirements and excludes medical retirements for non-casual employees
8 - 6202.0 Labour Force, Australia, Table 4. Labour force status by Sex, New South Wales - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original
9 - State of Public Sector Report, Queensland, 2015