Chapter Eleven

Regional profile of the public sector

The NSW public sector is the largest employer in Australia, accounting for almost 10% of employment in the state. As such, it has a large impact on the NSW workforce. While most roles are in metropolitan areas, the NSW public sector employs many people in regional areas and handles a significant proportion of all employment in regional NSW.1

In 2019, 58.2% of NSW public sector employees worked in Sydney (Sydney East and Sydney West combined), with the remaining 41.8% spread across the rest of NSW (see Figure 11.1). 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 38.8% of people in NSW living in regional areas.

Figure 11.1 NSW public sector employees by region, census headcount, 2019

Region Public sector employees, census headcount Representation by region (%)
Hunter Valley excl. Newcastle 11,431 2.8
Mid North Coast 11,028 2.7
New England & North West 11,112 2.7
Far West & Orana 10,428 2.6
Coffs Harbour – Grafton 8,229 2.0
Richmond – Tweed 12,506 3.1
Capital Region 11,059 2.7
Riverina 9,757 2.4
Murray 5,836 1.4
Central West 14,341 3.5
  • 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 134,675 33.3
Sydney West 101,196 25.0
Central Coast 16,343 4.0
Newcastle and Lake Macquarie 24,600 6.1
Illawarra 16,373 4.0
Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven 6,066 1.5
  • Sydney East
  • Sydney West
  • Central Coast
  • Newcastle and Lake Macquarie
  • Illawarra
  • Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven

Regional profiles

Key statistics for each region are displayed in Table 11.1, and the distribution of census FTE by region and service is shown in Table 11.2. In 2019, regional NSW accounted for 40.4% of FTE, while Sydney East and Sydney West together accounted for 59.6%. In line with previous years, the distribution of Public Service and other Crown services employees between Sydney and regional NSW mirrored that of the general NSW population. The NSW Health Service and the NSW Teaching Service had higher proportions of employees in regional areas compared to the general population, while the NSW Police Force and the Transport Service had higher proportions of employees in the Sydney region.

Table 11.1: Key statistics by region, 20193
Work Region Estimated resident population Census period FTE 2018 Census period FTE 2019 Change census period FTE 2018 to 2019 (%) Median age (years) Median salary non–casual ($) Median tenure non–casual (years in agency) Part–time non–casual (%)
Capital Region 227,969 8,429 8,892 5.5 47 $85,066 9.9 34.8
Central Coast 342,095 12,833 13,258 3.3 45 $86,033 9.6 34.1
Central West 212,648 11,352 11,775 3.7 45 $83,403 9.3 30.4
Coffs Harbour – Grafton 141,212 6,481 6,687 3.2 47 $86,567 10.0 36.2
Far West & Orana 117,331 8,476 8,722 2.9 43 $79,586 8.2 26.1
Hunter Valley excl. Newcastle 277,105 8,584 9,262 7.9 44 $83,136 9.8 33.4
Illawarra 311,193 12,119 12,440 2.6 45 $87,926 11.4 31.0
Mid North Coast 220,713 8,730 9,014 3.3 47 $86,641 10.4 34.5
Murray 120,169 4,345 4,545 4.6 46 $83,918 9.2 39.6
New England & North West 186,864 8,737 9,094 4.1 45 $83,136 9.1 33.9
Newcastle & Lake Macquarie 375,931 18,667 19,503 4.5 45 $87,926 10.0 33.9
Richmond – Tweed 250,989 9,526 9,822 3.1 48 $87,926 10.7 42.6
Riverina 161,100 7,734 7,963 3.0 44 $83,136 8.4 32.2
Southern Highlands & Shoalhaven 154,687 4,659 4,825 3.6 47 $83,136 9.8 37.4
Sydney West 2,160,153 81,647 86,112 5.5 42 $87,926 8.6 22.7
Sydney East 2,728,082 111,564 113,876 2.1 43 $90,236 7.2 21.8

* 4.6% of employee records in the workforce profile were missing the postcode and/or suburb in 2019.

Table 11.2: Census period FTE by service and region, 2019
Work Region Public Service NSW Health Service NSW Police Force Teaching Service Transport Service Other Crown services Government sector State owned corporations
Capital Region 1,656 2,793 657 2,307 200 911 8,525 367
Central Coast 2,133 5,917 762 2,957 125 1,363 13,258 0
Central West 2,985 3,963 552 2,244 184 1,440 11,368 407
Coffs Harbour – Grafton 1,182 2,434 277 1,370 390 762 6,414 273
Far West & Orana 2,028 2,792 533 1,699 243 1,038 8,333 390
Hunter Valley excl. Newcastle 2,315 2,086 472 2,924 74 1,249 9,120 142
Illawarra 1,503 5,181 628 2,833 420 1,783 12,348 92
Mid North Coast 1,099 3,148 364 2,063 66 1,262 8,002 1,011
Murray 604 1,532 290 1,144 109 638 4,317 228
New England & North West 1,476 3,126 545 2,218 149 1,219 8,732 361
Newcastle & Lake Macquarie 3,126 9,002 768 3,425 512 2,198 19,031 472
Richmond – Tweed 1,026 4,462 537 2,238 94 1,211 9,567 255
Riverina 1,333 2,946 380 1,660 282 973 7,576 386
Southern Highlands & Shoalhaven 973 1,599 238 1,333 33 632 4,806 18
Sydney West 16,071 30,631 6,198 19,291 1,810 9,861 83,863 2,247
Sydney East 24,466 38,267 6,700 17,875 8,371 16,032 111,712 1,160

NSW public sector relative to the NSW workforce

The NSW public sector accounted for 9.8% of the approximately 4,151,962 people employed in NSW at June 2019.4 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 shows 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 2019.

 

The proportion of public sector employees relative to total employed people increased in several regions in 2019. This was largely due to an increase in the number of public sector employees in all regions coupled with a decrease in the number of employed persons in six regions: Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle), Central Coast, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven, Mid North Coast, Coffs Harbour – Grafton, and Far West and Orana.4 The largest proportional increase was in Far West and Orana, where public sector employees made up 20.3% of all employed persons in 2019 (up from 17.4% in 2018). In contrast, less than 10% of the workforce in Sydney East and Sydney West was employed in the NSW public sector.

NSW regions map

Sydney regions map

Sydney regions map data

Importers and exporters of talent

The percentage of NSW public sector workers commuting out of their home regions for work differed across regions (see Figure 11.4). In the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle), Central Coast, Illawarra, and Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven regions, between 30% and 40% of public sector employees travelled to another region for work. Most of them worked in Sydney West or Sydney East. This may reflect these regions’ proximity to Sydney, where 58.2% of NSW public sector employees were located on the census date. In contrast, less than 10% of NSW public sector employees living in the Riverina and Richmond – Tweed regions travelled to another region for work, likely due to the size of these regions.

 

The commuting ratios in Figure 11.5 show the number of public sector employees commuting out of their home region to work, for every employee working within the home region. The highest net exporters were the Illawarra and Central Coast regions, where more than two public sector employees commuted out of the region to work for every one that commuted in. The Illawarra ratio represents a decrease from 2018 (from 3.4 to 2.4), largely due to an increase in the number of employees commuting to the region. 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 person commuting 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, with large numbers of employees commuting to and from the surrounding regions. Understanding where employees are commuting to and from is important for planning recruitment and managing retention.

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 in and around Sydney for work. The largest proportion of commuting occurred between Sydney West and Sydney East. Around 20.3% of NSW public sector employees in Sydney East travelled in from Sydney West, and 17.2% of NSW public sector employees in Sydney West resided in Sydney East. In total, 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, 2019
Home region
Work region Sydney East Sydney West Central Coast Newcastle & Lake Macquarie Illawarra Southern Highlands & Shoalhaven
Sydney East 95,103 27,386 3,746 951 3,402 427
Sydney West 17,399 76,761 884 409 1,613 617
Central Coast 556 251 13,633 1,315 * *
Newcastle & Lake Macquarie 454 372 1,034 18,629 42 *
Illawarra 855 555 * 47 13,572 619
Southern Highlands & Shoalhaven 103 290 * * 802 4,612

* Asterisks indicate redacted data which is considered to be a data quality issue.

Approximately 9,500 employees commuted from the Central Coast and Illawarra regions to Sydney East or Sydney West. This constituted around 29.5% of employees residing in these regions. Far fewer employees travelled out of Sydney East and Sydney West to work in the surrounding regions (1,968 and 1,468, respectively). This is consistent with the high concentration of NSW public sector employment in Sydney.


Notes

1 Regional boundaries are based on the Australian Statistical Geography Standard developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The work locations of 3,019 NSW public sector employees were unknown due to Workforce Profile data collection records missing a postcode or a suburb name, or both data items. These employees have not been included in denominators when calculating percentages.
2 Statistical Areas Level 4, Sydney Collapsed, excludes ‘Unknowns’ and ‘Outside NSW’.
3 ABS, 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 ABS, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed – Electronic Delivery, June 2019, cat. no. 6291.0.55.001, released 25 September 2019, https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/allprimarymainfeatures/25FF00812EB9EDC7CA25845D00123D45?opendocument
5 Including casual employees gives a better sense of the number of people travelling between regions for work.