11 Regional profile of the public sector

The NSW public sector is the largest single employer in Australia, employing a large proportion of the workforce across NSW. The economies of many regional communities benefit from the flow-on effects of NSW public sector employment.1

In 2018, 58.5% of all NSW public sector employees worked in Sydney (Sydney East and Sydney West combined), with the remaining 41.5% spread across the rest of NSW. The distribution of employees between Sydney and regional areas2 marginally favoured the latter when compared to the geographical distribution of the resident population of NSW, with an estimated 39.0% of people in NSW living in regional areas.

Figure 11.1 NSW public sector employees by region, census headcount, 2018

Region Headcount % of all NSW employees
Hunter Valley excl. Newcastle 10,584 2.7
Mid-North Coast 10,647 2.7
New England & North West 10,748 2.8
Far West & Orana 10,170 2.6
Coffs Harbour — Grafton 8,024 2.1
Richmond — Tweed 12,133 3.1
Capital Region 10,612 2.7
Riverina 9,539 2.4
Murray 5,570 1.4
Central West 13,856 3.6
  • Hunter Valley
  • Mid North Coast
  • New England and North West
  • Far West & Orana
  • Coffs Harbour - Grafton
  • Richmond - Tweed
  • Capital Region
  • Riverina
  • Murray
  • Central West
  • Sydney

Sydney regions

Work Region Public sector employees, headcount at census Representation by region (%)
Sydney East 132,081 33.9
Sydney West 96,190 24.7
Central Coast 15,666 4.0
Newcastle and Lake Macquarie 23,085 5.9
Illawarra 15,074 3.9
Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven 5,909 1.5
  • Sydney East
  • Sydney West
  • Central Coast
  • Newcastle and Lake Macquarie
  • Illawarra
  • Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven

New methodology for reporting region-based data

All regional analysis is based on location data collected in the Workforce Profile. The addition of ‘suburb’ as a data field in the Workforce Profile has enabled more accurate mapping of workforce data when combined with the postcode. These analyses are used to support policy making and to study the impact of geographical variables, such as commuting time, on a host of other work-related variables. Records where this location data is missing are excluded from all analysis.

Regional profiles

Key statistics for each region are displayed in Table 11.1. Additionally, the distribution of census FTE by region and service is shown in Table 11.2. The Public Service and other Crown services had a similar Sydney-to-regional ratio to that of the general NSW population. The NSW Health Service and NSW Teaching Service had higher proportions of employees in regional areas relative to the general population. In contrast, the NSW Police Force and Transport Service had higher proportions of employees in Sydney relative to the general population.

Table 11.1 Key statistics by region, 2018

Work Region2 Estimated resident population3 Census period FTE 2017 Census period FTE 2018 Change census period FTE 2017 to 2018 (%) Median age (years) Median salary noncasual ($) Median tenure non-casual (years in agency) Part-time non-casual (%)
Capital Region 226,112 8,499 8,429 -0.8 47 $82,991 10.4 35.8
Central Coast 337,798 12,302 12,833 4.3 45 $84,572 10.1 34.0
Central West 211,717 11,156 11,352 1.8 45 $81,108 9.7 31.7
Coffs Harbour - Grafton 139,664 6,308 6,481 2.7 48 $85,466 10.7 36.9
Far West and Orana 116,630 8,364 8,476 1.3 44 $77,645 8.7 27.4
Hunter Valley excluding Newcastle 272,851 8,306 8,584 3.3 45 $81,108 10.3 37.1
Illawarra 307,335 11,732 12,119 3.3 45 $85,782 10.6 33.9
Mid North Coast 218,077 8,418 8,730 3.7 47 $84,572 10.8 36.5
Murray 118,651 4,377 4,345 -0.7 47 $82,280 10 39.7
New England and North West 186,221 8,722 8,737 0.2 45 $81,108 9.9 34.7
Newcastle and Lake Macquarie 372,828 18,220 18,667 2.5 45 $85,466 10 34.1
Richmond - Tweed 246,931 9,038 9,526 5.4 48 $85,782 11.3 43.3
Riverina 160,379 7,465 7,734 3.6 45 $81,108 9.1 33.2
Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven 152,346 4,606 4,659 1.2 47 $81,369 10.4 37.5
Sydney West 2,684,847 78,916 81,647 3.5 43 $85,782 9.3 24.9
Sydney East 2,108,681 107,649 111,564 3.6 43 $87,225 7.5 22.3

* 2018 has 4.2% missing region data compared with 0.4% for 2017

Table 11.2 Census period FTE by service and region, 2018

Work Region2 Public Service NSW Health Service NSW Police Force Teaching Service Transport Service Other Crown services Government sector State owned corporations
Capital Region 1,535 2,750 639 2,131 187 817 8,059 370
Central Coast 1,967 5,679 735 3,037 96 1,319 12,833 -
Central West 2,852 3,843 536 2,254 63 1,420 10,968 385
Coffs Harbour - Grafton 1,125 2,327 268 1,404 376 729 6,228 253
Far West and Orana 1,938 2,689 512 1,694 255 998 8,086 391
Hunter Valley exc Newcastle 2,048 2,066 468 2,627 120 1,104 8,433 151
Illawarra 1,440 5,072 620 2,797 412 1,682 12,023 96
Mid North Coast 1,005 3,087 375 2,048 65 1,244 7,824 905
Murray 561 1,446 295 1,105 111 596 4,114 231
New England and North West 1,441 3,020 522 2,145 93 1,156 8,378 359
Newcastle and Lake Macquarie 2,812 8,655 757 3,334 504 2,141 18,202 465
Richmond - Tweed 968 4,247 537 2,273 96 1,149 9,269 257
Riverina 1,266 2,844 376 1,707 269 932 7,392 343
Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven 894 1,527 230 1,326 38 628 4,643 16
Sydney West 14,135 29,620 5,974 19,347 1,790 8,681 79,547 2,098
Sydney East 22,257 38,050 6,552 17,431 9,025 16,104 109,419 1,152

NSW public sector relative to the NSW workforce

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), an estimated 4,031,448 people were employed in NSW at June 2018.4 The NSW public sector accounted for 9.8% of these, a drop of 0.3 percentage points from June 2017.

As in previous years, the NSW public sector’s contribution to employment varied from region to region. Analysis of the geographic distribution of NSW public sector employees relative to the overall workforce5 can provide insights about where government employment contributed the most to local and regional economies. Figure 11.2 shows the percentage of employed persons who were NSW public sector employees in each region in 2018.

 

At 17.3% (down from 18.7% in 2017), the Far West and Orana region had the highest proportional representation of NSW public sector employees. This contrasts with Sydney East and Sydney West where less than 10.0% of the workforce in each region was employed in the NSW public sector. In most regional areas, the contribution of NSW public sector employment was much greater (as a percentage of the total number of employed people) than it was in Sydney, though the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) had the lowest representation, at 7.6%.

Figure 11.3 Public sector employees as a proportion of NSW employed persons by region, 2018

NSW regions map

Sydney regions map

Legend for map

Importers and exporters of talent

The percentage of NSW public sector workers commuting out of their home region for work differs across regions (see Figure 11.4). The Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle), Central Coast and Illawarra regions had the highest proportions of employees travelling to another region for work (between 30% and 40%). This possibly reflects the lower availability of certain job types in these regions and relative proximity to Sydney, where 58.5% of NSW public sector roles were located on census date. In contrast, less than 15% of NSW public sector employees living in the Riverina, Richmond – Tweed, New England and North West, and Mid North Coast regions travelled to another region for work, likely due to the geographical expansiveness of these regions.

 

Figure 11.5 shows the commuting ratio (out-to-in) among NSW public sector employees in each region. The highest net exporters were the Illawarra and Central Coast regions, where more than two public sector employees commuted out of their region to work for every one that commuted in. The proximity of these regions to Sydney facilitates larger-scale commuting. Sydney East was once again the most substantial net importer of NSW public sector employees, with only 0.5 people commuting out of the region for every one commuting in to the region for work.

 

Commuting profile of Sydney and surrounding regions

The employment catchment area of Greater Sydney shown in Figure 11.6 has expanded over recent decades and hosts large numbers of employees who commute to and from the surrounding regions. Understanding where employees are commuting to and from is important for employer recruitment and retention planning. It can help business managers understand recruitment catchments, geographic predictors of staff turnover and talent availability. In addition, geographical analyses can help existing and potential employees to understand how location-based factors affect job availability and competition with candidates from further afield.

Figure 11.6 Greater Sydney area

NSW regions map Sydney regions map

Table 11.3 illustrates the number of NSW public sector employees (including casuals5) on the census date who travelled between regions both in and around Sydney for work. The largest proportion of all commuting occurred between Sydney West and Sydney East. Around 20.5% of NSW public sector employees in Sydney East travelled in from Sydney West, and 19.0% of NSW public sector employees in Sydney West resided in Sydney East. Close to 45,000 NSW public sector employees travelled between these two regions for work.

Table 11.3 Commuting profile of Sydney and surrounding regions, 2018

Home Region
Work Region Sydney East Sydney West Central Coast Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Illawarra Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven
Sydney East 93,932 26,372 3,649 940 3,313 410
Sydney West 17,541 71,529 922 406 1,580 577
Central Coast 486 193 13,151 1,261 12
Newcastle and Lake Macquarie 304 218 954 17,886 17
Illawarra 546 362 28 13,222 559
Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven 89 256 740 4,566

Outside Sydney, approximately 9,500 employees commuted from the Central Coast and Illawarra regions to Sydney East or Sydney West. This constituted around 25.2% of employees residing in these regions. Not surprisingly, far fewer employees travelled out of Sydney East and Sydney West to work in the surrounding regions (1,425 and 1,029 respectively), which is consistent with the high concentration of NSW public sector employment in Sydney.

The commuting profile of the Central Coast and Illawarra regions is similar in terms of the proportion of employees travelling to Sydney for work and those working in their home region. More than 90% of all public sector employees residing on the Central Coast or in the Illawarra region either commuted to Sydney or worked in their home region, and a small percentage commuted to other regions (7.4% and 5.5% respectively). The size of the commuting cohort in these regions and their similarity in profile allows a deeper analysis of how salary range differs between those commuting versus those working in their home region.

In both the Illawarra and Central Coast regions, fewer employees on salaries of less than $61,658 commuted to Sydney than those on higher salaries, except for those in the $81,369 to $105,409 band (see figures 11.7 and 11.8).

 
 

Figure 11.9 highlights the link between remuneration and propensity to commute, with a general increase in the proportion of employees who commute to Sydney in each salary range. On the Central Coast, the proportion of employees in the highest salary range who commuted to Sydney was 40.4 percentage points higher than the proportion in the lowest salary range who commuted (with a corresponding difference of 28.5 percentage points in the Illawarra region). This pattern highlights the importance of regional employment in more highly remunerated and senior executive positions, and the important role that flexible working arrangements (in terms of the location in which work is carried out) could have in attracting and retaining talent in regional areas.

 

Notes

1 Regions are based on the Australian Statistical Geography Standard developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The work locations of 6,355 NSW public sector employees are unknown due to missing postcode or suburb or both data items in the Workforce Profile collection. These employees have not been included in denominators when calculating percentages.
2 SA4s, Sydney Collapsed, Excludes ‘Unknowns’ and ‘Outside NSW
3 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016, Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2016, cat. no. 3235.0, released 28 August 2017, http://stat.abs.gov.au/itt/r.jsp?databyregion#/,
4 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed – Electronic Delivery, June 2018, cat. no. 6291.0.55.001, released 20 September 2018, http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.001Jul%202017?OpenDocument
5 Inclusion of casual employees gives a better sense of number of people travelling between regions for work