The latest Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey is open for contributions.
The survey takes only a few minutes to complete and can be accessed here.
The survey is the latest instalment in the series, introduced to examine the impacts of the global economic downturn of 2009 on geoscientist employment in Australia. This instalment in the survey series will complete our view of geoscientist employment trends in Australia during 2016.
The latest Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey is open for contributions until 22 October, 2016. Follow this link to complete the survey.
The June 2016 quarter Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey revealed that employment prospects for geoscientists throughout Australia were potentially showing signs of improvement.
At the end of June, the combined unemployed + underemployed rate was still over 36% – more than one in three geoscience professionals in Australia. Long-term unemployment and under-employment continued to be a burning issue.
There has been considerable, anecdotal evidence that employment prospects for geoscientists in Australia may have improved during the third quarter of 2016. This survey will measure the extent to which has occurred.
Thanks to your support, this survey series is becoming regarded as an important indicator of not only geoscientist employment but the general health of the exploration and mining sectors in Australia. The survey results are reported widely and used to promote and inform others of the health of an industry which is vital to Australia’s economy. Please support this ongoing initiative by taking a few minutes to complete this latest instalment in the survey series and encouraging your friends and colleagues to do so.
You do not need to be an AIG member to participate.
Please note that no data that could personally identify respondents is collected by this survey.
The few minutes of your time spent completing the survey really helps to make a difference to the standing and knowledge of our profession. Again, the survey will remain open for contributions until 22 October 2016. Click here to complete the survey.
The jobs outlook for Australia’s geoscientists has shown the first small signs of improvement in two years with the number of professional geoscientists in Australia seeking work or unable to secure satisfactory self-employment, falling fell in the June quarter compared with the preceding period.
This is the first sign of any improvement in the sector – hard hit by the retreating mining resources boom – since September 2014 but the outlook remains dire with higher numbers looking to leave the profession for opportunities elsewhere. The profession’s latest survey shows that at 30 June 2016, the unemployment rate amongst Australian geoscientists was 15.9% and the under- employment rate was 20.2%. This, compared with 19.5% and 23.4% respectively as at 31 March (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Geoscientist unemployment and under-employment in Australia June 2009 – June 2016
This is the first decline in both the unemployment and under-employment rates for geoscientists since September 2014. Even with the decline, however, the unemployment rate remains above that recorded by this survey in September 2015.
Almost half of Australia’s self-employed geoscientists were unable to secure more than one quarter of their desired workload during the quarter, pointing to a real unemployment rate of 27.6%, which decreased from 33.3% in the previous quarter.
The survey received 1095 responses this quarter from an estimated 6,000 geoscientists in Australia, working in all sectors of exploration and mining, government, education, research, environment and a range of other fields of practice.
On a state by state basis, decreases in both unemployment and under-employment were evident in all states except South Australia where unemployment remained static but under-employment amongst self-employed geoscientists increased (Figure 2). South Australia also recorded the highest combined rate of unemployment and underemployment, followed by Queensland and New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. The combined unemployment and underemployment rate was very similar for Western Australia and Victoria, which recorded the greatest improvement during the quarter (Figure 3).
Figure 2. Geoscientist unemployment and underemployment by State
Figure 3. Changes in state unemployment and underemployment during Q2 2016
Long-term unemployment remains a key concern with the proportion of geoscientists who have been without work for more than 12 months increasing from 49% to almost 60% in the current survey.
Just over 70% of unemployed and underemployed respondents were not confident of regaining employment within the next 12 months.
Both figures reflect a further loss in confidence regarding employment prospects amongst geoscientists seeking work.
Almost 16% of unemployed and under-employed geoscientists indicated that they were seeking to leave the profession for roles with better employment prospects, up 2% from the previous quarter (Figure 4).
Some 13% of respondents currently in employment felt at risk of losing their jobs in the next three months: a slight decrease on the 15% recorded in March 2016.
The proportion of employed geoscientists in full time roles fell from 81% in March to 77% in this survey. The proportion of survey respondents in employment describing themselves as self- employed increased from almost 15% in March to over 16% in this survey.
Figure 4. How Australia’s unemployed and underemployed geoscientists view their prospects
The June survey, for the first time, questioned respondents currently in employment on the type of employment in which they are engaged. The results confirmed the importance of the junior mining and exploration sector and small consulting/contracting groups which provided 27.1% and 19.6% of roles respectively – almost 47% of all geoscientist jobs in Australia (Figure 5). This is frequently overlooked by both Federal and State governments whose focus is frequently directed to larger participants in the industry. Major exploration and mining companies (e.g. Vale, BHPB, Rio Tinto) employ only 19% of geoscientists in Australia – significantly fewer than their junior competitors.
Figure 5. Geoscientist employment by enterprise type
AIG President, Mr Mike Erceg, described the results as mixed. “Any improvement in geoscientist employment prospects following such a prolonged downturn can only be described as very welcome news” Mr Erceg said. “We need, however, to see improvement in the unemployment and under-employment rates over more than a single quarter before becoming too excited by the prospect of a turnaround in geoscientist employment opportunities.” Mr Erceg said.
“The improvements evident in the latest survey confirm the anecdotal evidence of a very modest increase in exploration activity which seemed to gather momentum during the second quarter of this year. The improvement, however, brought a sharp increase in the proportion of long term unemployed geoscientists which is of real concern to the AIG which has been doing whatever it can to help members maintain and improve their skills and employment prospects.
“Initiatives have included allowing unemployed and under-employed members to defer membership fees and providing heavily discounted registrations for conferences and seminars, as well as keeping governments with the ability to promote exploration and offer other forms of support to geoscientists seeking work aware of the situation”.
“It’s absolutely essential that geoscientists experiencing tough employment conditions do not lose contact with their profession, peers and colleagues” Mr Erceg said.
“These initiatives by the AIG not only help members to maintain their skills but also provide great networking opportunities which may lead to jobs.
“All AIG members also have access to a dedicated Edumine campus which offers hundreds of high quality, self-paced short courses that, again, enable members to maintain current skills and increase both their awareness of, and ability to apply, new thinking and techniques relevant to their work.
“Members who take advantage of these measures will hopefully be looked on favourably by prospective employers.
“The new information provided by this survey on the type of enterprises that are providing employment for geoscientists and, significantly, undertaking essential exploration to replenish Australia’s resource project pipeline is particularly significant.” Mr Erceg said. “Small companies raise capital from investors to complete a modest program of work to, usually, a very tight budget with little ability to absorb costs imposed by administrative delays and other issues impeding access to land, especially for early stage, very low impact work.
“Every dollar spent on compliance is a dollar not invested in productive exploration to turn geological concepts into discoveries.
“It has been heartening that government agencies in most states responsible for granting exploration title and permitting exploration field work have reported significant reductions in the time required to process applications.” Mr Erceg said. “This has happened, though, at a time of much reduced exploration activity. These functions need to be adequately resourced to prevent current performance from continuing to improve and certainly not deteriorate, as the workload builds with increasing activity in the exploration sector.
“Australia needs its exploration sector to get back to work to help underpin the economic health of our nation and provide opportunities for future generations”.
Employment prospects for Australia’s professional geoscientists deteriorated even further in the opening quarter of 2016, driven down by mining’s negativity and dashing hopes for an improvement in the geoscientist employment situation.
Around half of the unemployed has now been jobless in the sector for 12 months – and around two thirds of jobless have no expectation of returning to their chosen craft anytime soon.
The picture emerged in results of the latest quarterly survey by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG) in which respondents provided information about their employment prospects during the first three months of 2016.
The figures reinforced that geoscientist employment in Australia has been in continuous decline since September 2011 and has been at Global Financial Crisis levels or worse since September 2013. Alarmingly, the new March 2016 results broke previous “worst” records, crashing further to the lowest measure of geoscientist employment conditions in Australia since these surveys commenced in June 2009.
At 31 March 2016, the unemployment rate amongst Australian geoscientists was 19.5% and the under-employment rate remained at 23.4% (Figure 1).
The survey received excellent support with 1013 responses in all. The last Australian census indicated that there are some 8,000 people with geoscientist qualifications in Australia, not all of whom are pursuing a career in the profession.
The unemployment rate increased from 18.7% at the end of December 2016, and the combined unemployed + underemployed rate increased from 42.1% at the end of December 2015 to 42.9% at the end of March 2016.
Almost 60% of self-employed geoscientists were unable to secure more than one quarter of their desired workload during the quarter, pointing to a real unemployment rate of 33.3%.
The employment survey results for different states were mixed. The highest combined rate of unemployment and underemployment was evident in Queensland, followed by New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. The combined unemployment and underemployment rate was very similar for Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia (Figure 2). The composition of the overall figures, however, varied between these three states with unemployment higher in both Victoria and South Australia than in Western Australia.
The increasing unemployment and underemployment trend was also not uniform across Australia (Figure 3). Both unemployment and underemployment increased marginally in Western Australia. In Queensland, however, unemployment increased by more than 5% while underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists decreased. Both unemployment and underemployment increased in New South Wales. In Victoria, unemployment increased significantly while improved demand for self-employed geoscientists’ services was evident. In South Australia, unemployment was unchanged while underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists fell. In the Northern Territory, geoscientist unemployment fell sharply, but underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists increased. The results for the Northern Territory are influenced by the small number (20) of survey respondents primarily seeking work there.
Some 49%, almost half, of Australia’s unemployed and underemployed geoscientists have been without work for more than 12 months, an increase of 5% since December 2015 (Figure 4). More than 67% of unemployed and underemployed respondents were not confident of regaining employment within the next 12 months. Less than 5% of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists were confident of regaining employment within 3 months. 14% of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists were seeking long-term employment outside their profession, up from 9% in the previous survey.
Unemployment and underemployment is affecting geoscientists with all levels of experience, from new graduates to seasoned professionals (Figure 5). The rate of unemployment in five year groups between 0 – 5 years and 20 – 25 years was essentially constant, at around 10% in each category. The unemployment and underemployment rate, however, increases to around 15% in the 25 – 30 year category, and almost 35% in the greater than 30 year category which is concerning as it points to some of the most experienced professionals in Australia not being able to contribute to the mentoring and professional development of their younger colleagues, and to important lessons learned in the past potentially being forgotten. The latter issue compounds the problem of cyclicity in employment affecting Australia’s resource industries, where the “boom and bust” nature of the sector impedes productivity through the loss of corporate knowledge and repetition of previous work, particular in exploration and discovery of new minerals and energy resources.
If anything in the survey results can be seen as positive, 43% of geoscientists in employment felt confident of maintaining their employment for at least the next 12 months; a marked improvement since December 2015 when only 36% of respondents felt confident of retaining employment.
The proportion of employed geoscientists in full time roles fell from 88% in December 2015 to 81% in the March 2016 survey. The proportion of survey respondents in employment describing themselves as self-employed increased from 9% in December 2015 to almost 15% in March 2016.
Some 15% of respondents currently in employment felt at risk of losing their jobs in the next three months: a similar result to that recorded by the December 2015 survey.
AIG President, Mr Wayne Spilsbury, expressed disappointment in the latest survey results. “Australian geoscience is entering its third year of extraordinarily difficult employment conditions for a group of educated, highly trained and experienced scientists.”
“When we think of geoscience in Australia, it is logical to immediately envisage professionals working in exploration and mining and forget that the skills developed and used in those aspects of professional practice are just as relevant to many other fields such as effective land management, environmental assessment, monitoring and remediation, and the management of groundwater resources that are so important to the future of large areas of Australia,” Mr Spilsbury said.
“Our minerals and energy resources industries too, are amongst Australia’s most productive, innovative, efficient and sustainable generators of wealth for our nation,” he said. “Every job in exploration and mining generates between three and four jobs in the broader community, from early stage exploration through to mine closure. “Australian companies are world leaders in delivering professional services covering the entire gamut of geosciences globally. Australian software plays a critical role in the effective execution of resource exploration and mining projects globally due to innovation based on local experience and expertise.”
“All this is at risk if we cannot crystallise investment in exploration,” Mr Spilsbury said. “These surveys, since 2009, have established a close link between geoscientist employment, exploration investment, resource discovery and the overall health of Australia’s mineral and energy resource industries”.
“All AIG members know that the factors responsible for the prolonged downturn in geoscientist employment are the same ones damaging Australia’s resource development project pipeline. These are low metal prices (except gold), poor sentiment in the equity market leading to lack of access to fresh capital and green and red tape that slow and often prohibits access to land for early, non-destructive, early-stage exploration.”
Although the results from this survey are the worst recorded since this series of surveys commenced in June 2009, there are a few signs of a possible turn-around in their fortunes”.
“The rate at which geoscientist unemployment has been increasing, particularly since September 2014, eased in the latest results,” Mr Spilsbury said. “The proportion of geoscientists currently in employment who felt confident about the security of their jobs increased, even if only slightly, for the first time in 18 months.”
The latest survey also revealed a small but sharp increase in the proportion of geoscientists in employment describing themselves as self-employed. “We’ve seen this in previous surveys, but at times when geoscience employment was in a better state than it is now,” Mr Spilsbury said. “AIG and its kindred professional institutes will be working hard to assist members making or considering a transition to self-employment,” he said.
“If there is light appearing at the end of the tunnel, then now is the best time to act to catalyse investment in exploration at State and Federal levels to take full-advantage of an emerging opportunity,” Mr Spilsbury said. “We need action to make this a reality.”
16 May 2016
The December quarter 2015 Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey is now open for submissions. In view of the holiday season, the survey will receive submissions until 29th January.
Please use the embedded survey form (below – requires Java) or follow this link if you experience any problems.
Sincere thanks for your ongoing support of this initiative.