senior executives in the government sector
An important initiative in the first years of the NSW Public Service
Commission has been to simplify the executive structure. The Government Sector
Employment Act 2013 (GSE Act) was introduced in part to create a simpler
structure that could better support executive mobility. This work was further
strengthened by the implementation of the Government Sector Employment
Legislation Amendment Act 2016 (GSELA Act), which aligned the senior executive
employment arrangements of the NSW Health Service, Transport Service and NSW
Police Force with those of the Public Service.
Table 3.1: Senior executives in the public sector, census headcount,
At June 2018 there were 3,401 senior executives in the public sector, with
3,115 in the government sector. This is a decrease of 26.4% compared to the
previous year. The decrease is largely due to a reclassification of Transport
Senior Managers, affecting the Transport Service, and Sydney Trains and NSW
Trains within other Crown services.1 The Transport executive cohort previously
included both Transport senior executives and Transport senior managers (whose
remuneration has historically been higher than a Clerk Grade 11/12). Since the
alignment of Transport’s executive employment arrangements under the GSELA
Act, Transport senior managers ceased to be considered senior executives.
If Transport senior managers were included in the senior executive total, the
change from the previous year would become a 6.7% increase.
The largest increase in senior executive numbers is seen in the Public
Figure 3.1 shows the increase in senior executive numbers in the Public
Service relative to the size of the cohort when the executive reform began.
This highlights that increases in 2018 have taken the executive numbers to
their highest level since the reforms were introduced in 2014. It should be
noted that while there was an increase of 112 senior executives in 2018, as a
part of the reforms around 1,400 Senior Officer roles have been removed that
were paid over the level of Clerk Grade 11/12 and overlapped with the senior
Table 3.2: Senior executives in the Public Service, census headcount,
The number of senior executives increased across most services. The largest
increases were in Education (50), Planning and Environment (33), Industry (30) and
Finance (28). Department representatives noted that the increases relate primarily
to restructuring and realignment to work priorities, and resourcing new programs
and projects such as for school infrastructure, housing affordability and resources
regulation. In contrast there was a decrease of 33 senior executives in the Family
and Community Services cluster due to the transfer of disability services to private
providers under the NDIS.
Within the Public Service in 2018, 2,040 senior executives were employed under
the four-band structure of the GSE Act as Public Service senior executives (PSSEs).
These accounted for 99.5% of all senior executives employed in the Public Service.
More than three in four PSSEs were in Senior Executive Band 1. This distribution
is reflected in the structure of the aligned executive services in the NSW Health
Service, Transport Service and NSW Police Force. Senior Executive Bands 1 and
2 comprised 95.3% of PSSEs (see Figure 3.2) and 93.0% of the aligned executive
services (see Figure 3.3).
Alignment of the employment arrangements of the executive cohorts is a key enabler
of executive mobility in the sector. Collectively, the alignment of the PSSE and aligned
services executive cohorts has increased the size of bands 1 to 3 by almost a third
Premier’s Priority for diversity in the senior leader cohort
Percentage of female senior leaders
Number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander senior leaders
One of the Premier’s Priorities is to improve diversity among public sector senior
leaders. The priority includes targets to double the number of Aboriginal and/
or Torres Strait Islander senior leaders and achieve gender equity among senior
leaders by 2025.
There has been steady improvement towards achieving the targets. The proportion
of female senior leaders increased by 1.3 percentage points to 38.7% in 2018.
Female representation in each band has increased each year since 2014: up by
10.2 percentage points in Band 2, and 8.4 percentage points in bands 3 and 4
over the entire period. While female representation in senior leader roles becomes
progressively lower in the higher bands, in 2018 the proportion of female leaders in
band 2 roles increased above that in band 1 roles for the first time. Increases occurred
in the Education, Finance, Health, Industry, Justice and Transport clusters.
Table 3.3: Female senior leaders by band, 2014-2018
At a cluster level, the proportion of female senior leaders has increased across most
clusters since 2014. Family and Community Services was the only cluster that did not
register an increase, affected by the transfer of disability services to private providers
under the NDIS. The largest increases since 2014 were in Finance, Services and
Innovation (10.2 percentage points), and Education (9.3 percentage points). Three
clusters achieved the target of having 50% female senior leaders: Education (55.1%),
Premier and Cabinet (54.6%), and Family and Community Services (54.1%). Clusters
with the lowest representation were Transport (28.0%) and Justice (24.9%), where
males are more dominant in the workforce composition more broadly.
Table 3.4: Female senior leaders by Cluster, 2014-20183
Despite this progress, projections based on current turnover and gender ratios in
recent appointments indicate that the sector will fall short of the target if this pattern
continues, with only 40.9% female senior leaders in 2025. This modelling indicates
that the target would be reached in 2025 if six in every 10 senior leader appointments
The number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander senior leaders increased
between 2017 and 2018, from 71 to 87. The Education, Transport, and Family and
Community Services clusters accounted for much of the increase. Apart from a slight
decrease in 2015, the number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander senior leaders
has increased each year since 2014, with the total increase at 52.6%.
Table 3.5: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander senior leaders by band, census headcount,
Figure 3.6 highlights that while most of the increase in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander cohort occurred in the lower salary range (26 appointments), there has been
a net increase of four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander senior leaders in senior
executive bands 2 to 4 since 2014. Significant progress has been made towards the
target of doubling the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
If the current rate of increase continues, this target will be achieved by 2023.
It should be noted that increases in the proportion of female and Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander senior leaders in 2018 occurred in conjunction with an increase in
the number of senior executives overall. Sustained increases in representation without
corresponding increases in the size of the overall leadership cohort may be more
challenging to achieve.
1 The Transport Service comprises agencies Transport for NSW, Roads and Maritime Services, and State
Transit Authority. Other Crown services includes Sydney Trains, NSW Trains and the Office of Transport
2 Excludes executives under other employment arrangements (3.2%)
3 Records are mapped to show earlier years’ data in the current cluster structure; data that does not map
to current is excluded (0.2% of records in 2014–16)