Workforce profile

The WA public sector workforce is dynamic and diverse, demonstrated through its wide range of demographics. For example, the oldest permanent staff member in the public sector is employed as a gardener or handyperson, compared to the youngest who is a weekend weather assistant. The furthest northern location (within WA) that an employee is based is the Kalumburu Community, which is the northernmost settlement in WA, with a population of about 400 people. In the south, it is Torndirrup National Park, which is home to Albany's natural rock formations such as the Gap and the Blowholes.

Around 30% of public sector employees (who indicated country of birth) were born somewhere other than Australia. Some examples include Bahrain, Peru, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Russia. There are 170 different languages identified as primarily spoken at home by employees, including Lithuanian, Tagalog, Swahili and Romanian. Twenty-four employees use sign language at home.

In addition, there are 87 public sector employees who work outside WA. Their work locations include Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

Monitoring demographic changes in this hugely diverse sector helps identify workforce and diversity planning challenges facing the public sector as a whole. This chapter provides information about the sector's workforce as at 30 June 2013, unless otherwise specified. Staff numbers, occupations and work locations are covered. The chapter also discusses the diversity profile of the public sector.

This year, there has been some growth in the public sector workforce in line with growth in the community and the requirement for frontline health and education services. Regional employees make up a significant component of the public sector workforce and are generally well-represented in regional areas compared to the broader population. The representation of women in management and the Senior Executive Service (SES) continues to improve overall.

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Staff numbers

At the end of June 2013, 138 863 employees, representing 110 544 full-time equivalents (FTE), were employed by the public sector bodies that report workforce data to the Public Sector Commission.1

This represents an increase of 2.8% in FTE over the previous year. In comparison, there was an increase of 3.4% in the WA population and 1.3% in the broader WA workforce.2

The growth in the public sector can be largely attributed to increased staffing in the very large service delivery entities, the Departments of Health and Education, with increases in FTE of 3.5% and 3.9% respectively this year. This represents increases in the number of frontline employees, such as 'education aides', 'nursing support and personal care workers', and 'registered nurses'.

Two images: one of a scientist working on a marine survey, the other of a man with bees from a beehive

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Type of work

Table 5.1 shows that the proportion of 'professionals'3 has increased and the proportion of 'clerical and administrative workers' has decreased over the last 10 years, representing an increasingly professionalised public sector workforce.

Table 5.1 Occupations in the public sector and broader WA workforce, 2003 and 2013

Occupations

Public sector 2003(a) (%)

Public sector 2013 (%)

WA workforce 2013 (%)

Managers

7.8

7.8

11.6

Professionals

43.9

47.9

19.9

Technicians and trades workers

4.3

4.4

17.9

Community and personal service workers

19.6

17.1

9.5

Clerical and administrative workers

20.8

18.4

13.9

Sales workers

0.1

0.5

8.9

Machinery operators and drivers

0.5

0.7

8.3

Labourers

3.1

3.3

9.9

Note: Due to rounding, results may not add up to 100%.

(a) Determined through converting occupations reported under the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO) to occupations under the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).

Source: HRMOIR, ANZSCO and the Australian Bureau of Statistics

In 2013, the public sector workforce had a substantially higher proportion of 'professionals' (47.9%) than the broader WA workforce (19.9%).4 The proportion of professionals in the sector is similar to other jurisdictions, such as Victoria (50.0%) and Queensland (47.4%).5

The WA public sector had a lower proportion of 'managers' (7.8%) than the broader WA workforce (11.6%). The representation of managers in the sector has remained steady over the last 10 years.

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Place of work

Geographical isolation creates one of the greatest challenges for the public sector. Economic growth across the state has led to increased demand for additional public services in regional areas to support growing communities and private investment.

The Perth metropolitan area comprises 76.0% of the public sector's workforce, with almost one-quarter (23.9%) of public sector employees employed in regional areas.6 Figure 5.1 shows the regional locations of public sector employees. The largest proportion (24.1%) of regional staff work in the South West region.

Figure 5.1 Public sector employees by non-metropolitan region, June 2013

Figure 5.1 Public sector employees by non-metropolitan region, June 2013. Click to view a larger version of this image.

Click on the image to enlarge

Source: HRMOIR

Factors influencing regional location of the public sector workforce include the region's population, relevant social and economic drivers, available resources, and existing and future infrastructure.

Figure 5.2 shows the regional locations of public sector employees compared to the broader WA labour force and population.7 Public sector employees are well-represented across the regions, with the exception of the Peel region. This compares to the metropolitan area, where employees are also well-represented (76.0%), in comparison to 74.6% of the broader labour force and 73.5% of the population.

Figure 5.2 Regional comparison of WA public sector employees, labour force and population, 2012 and 2013

Figure 5.2 Regional comparison of WA public sector employees, labour force and population, 2012 and 2013. Click to view a larger version of this image.

Click on the image to enlarge

Source: HRMOIR, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, and Department of Regional Development

The challenge of attracting and retaining suitably skilled staff in the regions, and the Commission's delivery of initiatives to support the management of skills shortages in such situations, are further discussed in Chapter 6.

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Workplace diversity

There is an opportunity to tap into underutilised segments of the workforce. These segments include diversity groups historically underrepresented in the workforce, such as Indigenous employees, employees from culturally diverse backgrounds, employees with disability, women in management, and youth.

Representation in the workforce

Table 5.2 provides an overview of representation of diversity groups across the public sector for the last five years. The following changes were observed this year:

  • Indigenous employee representation decreased slightly to 3.0%. However, this remains above the proportion of working age Indigenous Australians in the WA population (2.8%).8
  • The proportions of women in the SES, and tier two and three levels of management, increased to 29.2%, 35.4% and 42.0% respectively.
  • Representation of employees from culturally diverse backgrounds and youth decreased slightly to 12.4% and 5.1% respectively.
Table 5.2 Diversity groups in the public sector, June 2009 to 2013

Diversity group

Representation (%)

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Indigenous Australians

2.7

2.9

3.1

3.3

3.0

People from culturally diverse backgrounds

13.7

13.1

13.1

12.7

12.4

People with disability(a)

3.4

3.5

4.2

4.8

2.6

Women in the SES

25.1

26.7

26.4

27.6

29.2

Women in management

         
  • Tier one

23.1

27.7

29.6

31.4

26.2

  • Tier two

38.3

36.9

35.6

33.7

35.4

  • Tier three

36.8

39.0

40.0

40.5

42.0

Youth (under 25 years)

6.0

5.5

5.5

5.4

5.1

Mature workers (45 years and over)

51.2

51.7

51.9

51.9

51.9

(a) In 2013, the Department of Health identified a significant over-reporting error on its part for employees with disability. This means that the figures for 2009 to 2012 reflect an overrepresentation of people with disability.

Source: HRMOIR

In 2013, the Department of Health identified a significant over-reporting error on its part for employees with disability. This means that the figures for 2009 to 2012, as reported in Table 5.2, reflect an overrepresentation of people with disability. An accurate comparison across time is difficult on the basis of this data. However, an analysis of data prior to this error, which first arose in 2008, indicates representation of employees with disability in 2013 (2.6%) is higher than it was in 2007 (1.5%).9

The representation of employees with disability in 2013 is also above the WA working age representation of people needing assistance with core activities (1.9%).10

Indigenous employees and employees with disability

The slight decline in representation of Indigenous employees in 2013 is reflected in their engagement and separation rates. There were proportionally more separations than engagements of Indigenous employees in 2012/13.11 The same was true for employees with disability. Due to their low representation, these groups may be particularly impacted in times of financial constraint and workforce changes.

The Aboriginal employment strategy 2011-2015 and Disability employment strategy 2013-2015 contain a range of initiatives targeted at improving the representation of Indigenous employees and employees with disability. These strategies are further discussed in Chapter 6.

Chapter 6 also provides further information on the public sector's involvement with the National partnership agreement on Indigenous economic participation.

Some entities are already achieving representation above the public sector average of 3.0%. The following case study highlights a relevant example from the Western Australian Alcohol and Drug Authority, and its key initiatives to achieve a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Case study

Aboriginal employment in the alcohol and other drug sector

The Drug and Alcohol Office (DAO) recognises an Aboriginal workforce is essential to work in effective and culturally secure ways with Aboriginal communities. Employment of Aboriginal workers in DAO is higher than the public sector average, with a representation of 5.3% in June 2013.

DAO actively recruits Aboriginal workers into program areas. Measurable Aboriginal workforce strategies have been developed and DAO staff have a contemporary understanding of Aboriginal people and culture. The agency also has a dedicated Aboriginal workforce development program that provides nationally recognised training in the alcohol and other drug sector.

Strategies for improving Aboriginal employment outcomes include:

  • support of Aboriginal people at all levels of the organisation, including a specific Aboriginal program area, and representation at corporate executive level and in entry level positions
  • core DAO value of cultural security, respecting the legitimate cultural rights, values, beliefs and expectations of Aboriginal people
  • Strong spirit strong mind - Aboriginal drug and alcohol framework for Western Australia 2011-2015, which guides cultural security and is a key program that underpins all of the work of DAO
  • reconciliation action plan, which seeks to improve DAO's awareness of the needs of Aboriginal people and progress actions that will create opportunities, build relationships and grow respect for and with Aboriginal people
  • Indigenous cadetship program, which supports Aboriginal people undertaking tertiary study to enhance employment opportunities
  • 'Ways of working with Aboriginal people' training program for DAO and the broader sector, which increases the cultural awareness and competency of mainstream workers to better enable them to work in culturally secure ways with Aboriginal people
  • 'Alcohol and other drug worker' forum and awards for excellence, which recognise and celebrate the successes of culturally secure programs and activities across the sector.

Women

In the last 10 years, the proportion of women in the public sector has moved from 63.8% to 71.7%, representing an increasingly female workforce. Women comprise a significantly greater proportion of the public sector workforce when compared with the broader WA workforce (43.5%).12 Female employees make up much of the large nursing and teaching workforce.

Positions at lower salary levels tend to be predominately occupied by women. For example, 95.8% of 'education aides' are women while 97.3% of 'engineering managers' are men.13 In June 2013, the highest representation of men (17.6%) was in the Public Service and Government Officers General Agreement (PSGOGA) Level 6 equivalent salary band of $91 676 to $107 199, compared to $22 111 to $54 813 (Level 1 equivalent) for the highest representation of women (22.3%).

The representation of women in management and the SES has generally increased over the last few years. However, women continue to be underrepresented at senior levels. Table 5.2 showed women held 29.2% of SES positions in the public sector in June 2013, and represented 26.2% of tier one managers (chief executives). Encouraging and supporting more women to take on leadership roles has become an area of focus. Chapter 6 provides further information on the initiatives the Commission is progressing on this issue.

A female teacher stands behind four pupils each looking through a magnifying glass

Youth and mature workers

Table 5.2 showed the public sector is characterised by an ageing workforce, with the representation of mature employees standing at 51.9% in 2013. The representation of youth on the other hand fell slightly to 5.1%. The difference between the age groups is further evidenced by the separation rate of youth in 2012/13 (22.1%), which is almost double that of mature employees (11.9%).14 Younger employees are more likely to leave to progress their careers in other entities or other sectors, or pursue further studies or travel.

While the representation of mature employees has stabilised over the last three years, Figure 5.3 shows that mature employees comprise a greater proportion of the public sector workforce (51.9%) when compared with the broader WA labour force (37.8%).15

Figure 5.3 Age profile comparison of public sector with the WA labour force, June 2013

Figure 5.3 Age profile comparison of public sector with the WA labour force, June 2013. Click to view a larger version of this image.

Click on the image to enlarge

Source: HRMOIR and Australian Bureau of Statistics

Just over one-tenth (12.1%) of the public sector is aged 60 years and over, while the proportion of workers under 30 years remains low at 14.3%. This creates some workforce planning and succession management challenges for the public sector.

Loss of corporate knowledge due to retirement can be addressed through implementing strategies such as phased retirement, mentoring programs, and other knowledge capture and transfer initiatives. In order to develop a new generation of employees, entry-level programs such as graduate and traineeship programs may be beneficial. Further information on succession planning, entry-level programs and other Commission initiatives in these areas is provided in Chapter 6.

Distribution across salary levels

Table 5.3 provides an overview of the distribution across salary levels16 of diversity groups across the public sector. This shows that:

  • while their distribution remained low, overall salary levels improved slightly for Indigenous Australian employees in 2013
  • the distribution of female employees remained relatively steady, however the result confirms women are concentrated at somewhat lower salary levels.
Table 5.3 Distribution across salary levels of diversity groups in the public sector, June 2009 to 2013

Diversity group

Distribution across salary levels (equity index)

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Women

64

67

69

69

71

Indigenous Australians

53

41

36

35

39

People from culturally diverse backgrounds

98

97

93

96

96

People with disability(a)

98

95

95

100

87

(a) In 2013, the Department of Health identified a significant over-reporting error on its part for employees with disability. This means that the figures for 2009 to 2012 reflect an overrepresentation of people with disability.

Source: HRMOIR

The Aboriginal employment strategy 2011-2015 describes a range of initiatives aimed at improving employment outcomes of Aboriginal staff. The improved salary levels of Indigenous employees in 2013 is one potential example of outcomes arising from the implementation of this strategy.

The strategy encourages public sector bodies to implement Aboriginal entry-level programs, including cadetships and traineeships. Table 5.3 shows that salary levels for Indigenous Australian employees are lower than five years ago. One factor likely to have contributed to this is the increased number of Indigenous trainees being recruited within the public sector. Trainees are employed at lower salary levels, which impacts on the distribution across salary levels for Indigenous Australians.

In 2013, the Department of Health identified a significant over-reporting error on its part for employees with disability. This means that the figures for 2009 to 2012, as reported in Table 5.3, reflect an overrepresentation of people with disability. However, the distribution across salary levels of employees with disability in 2013 indicates they are fairly well-represented at all levels in the public sector.

Proactive approaches to retaining and developing diversity groups continue to be considered essential in order to improve representation at all salary levels.

Employee views on diversity

Results from the 2013 employee perception survey (EPS) indicate public sector employees generally have positive perceptions regarding organisational commitment to diversity and the treatment of employees from different diversity groups in the workplace. However, perceptions vary between different groups. Figure 5.4 shows Indigenous employees and employees with disability were significantly less likely to agree than public sector employees overall on a number of dimensions.17

Figure 5.4 Employee views on support for diversity within their entity, 2013

Figure 5.4 Employee views on support for diversity within their entity, 2013. Click to view a larger version of this image.

Click on the image to enlarge

Source: EPS

Inclusive and supportive environments can be achieved by increasing understanding and knowledge of diversity across the sector. The Commission is working with public sector bodies to create and maintain inclusive workplaces. Further information is provided in Chapter 6.

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Key chapter findings

The public sector workforce has experienced some growth in the past year, largely attributable to staffing in frontline health and education services. Growth in the public sector is in line with growth in the community. Regional employees comprise almost one-quarter of the public sector workforce, and are generally well-represented across the state when compared to the broader population.

There has been a shift in the sector's occupational profile in the last 10 years, indicative of an increasingly professionalised workforce. The representation of managers has remained steady in that time, with the proportion in the public sector in 2013 less than in the broader WA workforce.

The proportion of women in the public sector has continued to increase in the last 10 years, representing an increasingly female workforce. Public sector bodies have also made some positive progress in relation to the representation of women in management and the SES. The implementation of strategies to encourage and support more women to take on leadership roles will assist in continuing this upward trend.

The representation of Indigenous employees has decreased slightly in 2013. There were also proportionally more separations than engagements in 2012/13 for both Indigenous employees and employees with disability. These groups can be more vulnerable in times of financial constraint. Improving their representation in permanent full-time employment should remain a key focus through workforce planning initiatives.

With more than one-tenth of the WA public sector aged 60 years and over, there is a need to harness the knowledge and experience of mature employees, and retain them where possible, through implementing knowledge management strategies and providing flexible working arrangements. Building a base of skilled and qualified young employees, to whom knowledge can be transferred, will assist in preventing skills shortages due to retirement and other workforce challenges in the coming years.

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1 Source: Human resource minimum obligatory information requirement (HRMOIR) workforce data. Entities listed in Schedule 1 of the Public Sector Management Act 1994 (PSM Act) are not included.

2 Department of Regional Development 2013, Estimated resident population regional summary 2002-2012; and Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, 'Table 08. Labour force status by sex - Western Australia - Trend, seasonally adjusted and original', 6202.0 - Labour force, Australia, Jun 2013

3 Includes 'registered nurses' and 'primary school teachers', who have the highest levels of representation within the public sector.

4 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, 'E13_aug96 - Employed persons by occupation, state, sex, age', 6291.0.55.003 - Labour force, Australia, detailed, quarterly, May 2013

5 State Services Authority 2013, The state of the public sector in Victoria 2011-12, p. 10; and Queensland Public Service Commission 2013, Queensland public service workforce characteristics 2012/13, p. 8

6 Source: HRMOIR workforce data. A small proportion (0.1%) of public sector employees are located outside WA (such as in the Cocos Islands).

7 Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 2013, 'Estimates of unemployment, unemployment rate and labour force by state/territory and statistical local areas, March quarter 2012 to the March quarter 2013: smoothed series', Small area labour markets Australia; and Department of Regional Development 2013, Estimated resident population regional summary 2002-2012

8 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, 2002.0 - Census of population and housing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Indigenous) profile, 2011 third release

9 The 2007 representation for employees with disability is based on a different methodology for calculating diversity statistics, and therefore should be interpreted with caution.

10 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012, '2011 TableBuilder basic: Disability, carers and need for assistance classifications', 2011 Census of population and housing

11 Source: HRMOIR workforce data. Engagements and separations include both permanent and fixed-term employees who either commenced or ceased to be employed by an entity.

12 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, 'Table 08. Labour force status by sex - Western Australia - Trend, seasonally adjusted and original', 6202.0 - Labour force, Australia, Jun 2013

13 Source: HRMOIR workforce data

14 Source: HRMOIR workforce data. Separation rates are at the entity level. For example, if an employee resigns from one entity to join another entity, this is recorded as a separation.

15 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, 'LM2 - Labour force status by sex, age, capital city/balance of state', 6291.0.55.001 - Labour force, Australia, detailed - Electronic delivery, Jun 2013

16 Distribution across salary levels is determined using the equity index. The ideal distribution is 100, with a score of less than 100 indicating that a diversity group is concentrated at the lower salary levels. For information about how to calculate the equity index, see the State of the sector statistical bulletin 2013.

17 See the State of the sector statistical bulletin 2013 for other results by diversity group.


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Page last updated 23 January 2014