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Public Service Commission


Chapter 8

Average number of applications

15 per role

Time to hire

38.5 days

Tenure, total sector

8.4 years (-1.5 years vs 2011)

Teachers’ tenure

11.9 years

Police officers’ tenure

13.1 years

Nurses’ tenure

8.3 years 

Male tenure

8.8 years (-1.2 years vs 2011)

Female tenure

8.2 years (-1.6 years vs 2011)

Number of advertisements, openings and applications

Recruitment data extracted from I Work for NSW provide valuable insights into recruitment processes and trends across the sector.1

In 2020, 19,236 job advertisements were posted on I Work for NSW, a decrease of 14.6% from the previous year. Over the same period, the number of job openings decreased by 13.9% (see Figure 8.1).

The number of job applications had a much smaller decrease, which is likely due to the tougher labour market conditions during the pandemic. A total of 470,217 job applications were completed, a decrease of 0.9% from the previous financial year, with 46% of applications from women.

The average number of completed applications per job opening was 15, an increase of 1.4 from 2019.2 This number varied across different job categories, with the highest application rates for advertised roles in Sales and Marketing, Accounting and Financial and Senior Executive.3

The job categories of Schools (5,590) and Administration and Clerical (2,921) had the highest number of openings in 2020. Information and Communications Technology recorded a relatively large number of applications per opening (44). 

The average number of completed job applications per opening was highest for executive-level roles in the $192,600 – <$274,701 salary range (see Figure 8.3). 

Successful applicants

Of the 470,217 completed applications, 24,894 were successful, a decrease of 0.9% from the previous financial year. This equates to a success rate of 5.3%, with females being more successful than males (5.8% compared to 4.3%).

More detailed analysis of differences in the number of applications and the success rate between men and women can be found in the Gender chapter of this report. 

Time to hire

38.5 days

Filling of roles

While average time to hire has decreased over the past five years, 2020 saw the greatest improvement since 2016, from 50.3 days in 2019 to 38.5 days in 2020 (see Figure 8.4). 

Aside from reducing the time to recruit, recorded time to hire can be influenced by other factors, including the completeness and accuracy of the digital record of all recruitment actions.

The largest contributors to the decrease in 2020 were Service NSW and TAFE NSW. The decrease of average time to hire in Service NSW aligns with the timely larger-scale recruitment required as part of the NSW Government’s management of the pandemic.

Agency tenure and movements

The median tenure of non-casual employees in the public sector has continued to decrease since 2016, with a drop from 8.5 years in 2019 to 8.4 years in 2020 (see Figure 8.5). The gap between male and female tenure expanded to 0.6 years in 2020, an increase of 0.1 years from 2019. Female tenure decreased 0.2 years to 8.2 years in 2020 from 2019, while male tenure decreased by 0.1 years to 8.8 years. 

As in previous years, the services in the government sector with the longest median tenure in 2020 were the NSW Police Force (12.5 years), the Teaching Service (12 years) and other Crown services (8.2 years) (see Table 8.1). Within other Crown services, the longest tenure was for NSW Trains (15.8 years), Sydney Trains (9.7 years) and School Administrative and Support (7.4 years). Tenure is measured within the agency and is therefore generally longer in agencies with more specialised roles.

Although the Public Service had the shortest median tenure in 2020, there was a slight increase of 0.2 years to 5.4 years in 2020. The separation rate for the Public Service was 11.3%, down from 11.7% in 2019.

Table 8.1: Median tenure (years) for non-casual public sector employees by service, 2020

Service Median tenure (years)
Public Service 5.4
NSW Health Service 7.8
NSW Police Force 12.5
Teaching Service 12.0
Transport Service 5.5
Other Crown services 8.2
Total government sector 8.3
State owned corporations 9.6
External to government sector 6.8
Total public sector 8.4


In occupations with more than 100 employees, Education, Health and Welfare Services Managers had the longest median tenure, at 19.1 years, and close to half of these employees were from the Teaching Service (46.7%) (see Table 8.2). The largest occupation group with the longest median tenure was School Teachers, with a median tenure of 11.9 years.

Table 8.2: Occupations with the longest median tenure (years) among non-casual public sector employees at census, 20204

ANZSCO minor group Median tenure (years) Headcount at census
Education, Health and Welfare Services Managers 19.1 5,479
Keyboard Operators 16.0 296
Stationary Plant Operators 14.4 756
Defence Force Members, Firefighters and Police 13.1 19,918
Electricians 12.5 997
Miscellaneous Specialist Managers 12.2 5,950
Electronics and Telecommunications Trades Workers 12.1 1,200
Automotive Electricians and Mechanics 11.8 358
Storepersons 11.7 348
Miscellaneous Hospitality, Retail and Service Managers 11.6 1,635


In occupations with more than 100 employees, the shortest median tenure was among Sales, Marketing and Public Relations Professionals, at 2.7 years, and Financial and Insurance Clerks, at 2.9 years (see Table 8.3).

The occupation with the highest number of employees in the bottom 10 jobs for median tenure was Medical Practitioner, at 4.8 years. This occupation also showed a high rate of movement within the sector (11.8%).

Table 8.3: Occupations with the shortest median tenure (years) for non-casual public sector employees at census, 20204

ANZSCO minor group Median tenure (years) Headcount at census
Sales, Marketing and Public Relations Professionals 2.7 1,370
Financial and Insurance Clerks 2.9 191
Advertising, Public Relations and Sales Managers 3.2 566
Hospitality Workers 3.3 263
Financial Brokers and Dealers, and Investment Advisers 3.4 216
Architects, Designers, Planners and Surveyors 3.6 1,245
Media Professionals 3.8 195
Call or Contact Centre Information Clerks 3.9 5,903
ICT Managers 4.0 1,886
Accountants, Auditors and Company Secretaries 4.4 2,325


Across the public sector and government sector, the agency separation rate and the public sector exit rate decreased compared to 2019, with both down 0.6pp. The highest separation and exit rates were in the Public Service (11.3% and 8.9%, respectively, as shown in Table 8.4).

In 2020, internal movement within the public sector was only 1.6%; most of the employees exited the sector upon separation from their agency. The NSW Health Service and the Public Service had the highest rates of internal mobility (2.9% and 2.4%, respectively).

However, in 2020 a number of public sector employees moved from other agencies to NSW Health to support the initial response to COVID-19. It is likely that these moves are not included in these data, as shorter-term moves between agencies may not be recorded in the source systems of the Workforce Profile data.

Table 8.4: Separations, exits and moves; non-casual public sector employees by service, 2020

Service Separation from agency (%) Exit from public sector (%) Movement within public sector (%)
Public Service 11.3 8.9 2.4
NSW Health Service 9.5 6.6 2.9
NSW Police Force 5.1 4.7 0.5
Teaching Service 6.0 6.0 0.0
Transport Service 8.8 7.8 1.0
Other Crown services 7.9 7.6 0.3
Total government sector 8.6 7.0 1.7
State owned corporations 8.9 8.9 0.0
External to government sector 9.2 7.6 1.6
Total public sector 8.6 7.0 1.6


Employees aged 15 to 19 had the highest separation and exit rates of all age groups (21.8% and 21.3%, respectively). However, these employees only account for 0.5% of total separations. Employees aged 65 years or over accounted for 9.4% of overall separations, with a separation rate of 17.8% and an exit rate of 17.6%. The exits were mainly due to retirement. Employees aged 25 to 29 had the highest rate of movement within the sector (3.6%), predominantly due to the mobility of Medical Practitioners between Local Health Districts. Medical Practitioners had a movement rate of 17.5% within this group.

In 2020, the rate of movements within the sector continued to display the same pattern as 2019: highest in the 25–29 age group and then progressively declining.


1 It should be noted that this does not encompass all recruitment activity in the public sector. The main exclusions are the Health cluster and the Industry cluster from 2017 onwards.

Only includes applications where the number of openings was specified.

3 Only includes advertised roles with openings greater than 10.

4 Only includes occupations with more than 100 employees.