The results of the Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey for the September Quarter of 2015 show no improvement in employment prospects for Australia’s struggling geoscientists.
The survey recorded the highest levels of geoscientist unemployment and underemployment since the survey series commenced in 2009.
Australian geoscientist unemployment in the September quarter of 2015 was 15.5% nationally, up slightly from the June quarter result of 15.2%. The underemployment rate was 21.2%, a significant increase on the 19.9% recorded in June.
More than one third of underemployed geoscientists were unable to secure more than 10% of their desired workload.
A total of 926 responses were received to the survey from both AIG members and non-members. Responses were received from the full spectrum of professional geoscience experience, from new graduates to geoscientists with more than 30 years experience.
Unemployment and underemployment rates varied between states.
Insufficient responses were received from Tasmania and the Northern Territory to report meaningful state results.
Geoscientist employment (combined unemployment and underemployment) deteriorated in every state, in line with the national trend. Unemployment fell in Queensland and New South Wales / ACT but this fall was offset by increased underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists. Underemployment fell dramatically in Victoria, but again, this was more than offset by the increase in unemployment in that state.
New South Wales / ACT and Victoria recorded the greatest increases in the combined unemployment-underemployment rate.
In the latest survey, almost 44 percent of unemployed or underemployed geoscientists had not worked for 12 months or more. This rate has been increasing steadily since June 2012 when collection of this data was added to the survey. The proportion of unemployed geoscientists who are seeking permanent, alternate employment has increased, as has the proportion who have little confidence of returning to employment in less than 12 months. More than 13 percent of geoscientists are now seeking permanent employment outside geoscience. A massive 77 percent of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists have no confidence in their ability to return to work in less than 12 months.
Only six percent of geoscientists regained employment after being unemployed during the September quarter.
Some 80 percent of geoscientists responding to the survey, currently in employment, were full-time employees. Six percent work part-time and the remainder were seeking work as self-employed contractors or consultants.
Respondents currently in employment were asked to comment on their employment conditions for the first time in this survey. Just under 20 percent thought that their employment conditions had improved over the past year, while about 55 percent thought that their conditions had been maintained, and 25 percent thought that their conditions had declined.
Professional association and learned society membership is being maintained by Australian geoscientists, with only four percent of respondents reporting that they were not a member of a professional institute or learned society. More than 80 percent of respondents were members of either AIG or the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM), demonstrating a commitment to professional standards, ethics, continued professional development and the professional networking opportunities provided by membership.
“The survey results demonstrate, without any doubt, that the ongoing depressed employment situation for geoscientists in Australia are really starting to bite” said AIG President, Mr Wayne Spilsbury.
“If there was any doubt that financial market uncertainty, questions regarding long-term demand for commodities and depressed prices have a profound impact on exploration activity, these figures should dispel that.”
“Australia’s geoscientists are demonstrating incredible resilience in the face of a protracted downturn in their employment prospects”.
“There has been no tangible improvement in stubbornly high unemployment rates since September 2013: two years in which we are seeing more and more talented and experienced professionals with the skills essential to Australia’s long term economic prospectively not being used productively” Mr Spilsbury said.
“The potential solutions AIG and other professional and industry groups have been advancing for two years now have not changed. Governments need to reduce the burden imposed on explorers associated with access to land for exploration which can be done without threatening the environment and while fully respecting the rights and interests of other stakeholders”.
“AIG members would be aware, through recent newsletters and the Institute’s web site, that AIG recently wrote to Mr. Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection proposing the extension of labour market testing (LMT) to overseas geoscientists seeking temporary employment in Australia.” “An Immigration Department representative responding on behalf of the minister confirmed the the intent of the 457 visa program as providing Australian employers with access to skilled overseas professionals at times when local candidates for roles are in short supply.”
“The Commonwealth government is currently implementing recommendations from a recent, independent review of the 457 visa system which included reinstatement of a Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) to provide advice on skilled migration issues and establishment of a Dedicated Labour Market Resource office (DLMR) to provide policy and statistical advice to the MACSM, which will in future use the results of these surveys with other data to monitor trends in Australian geoscience employment to help deliver appropriate advice to the MACSM.”
“AIG considers this initiative to be positive one, preserving employers’ access to essential skills at times when they cannot be sourced within Australia, while not disadvantaging Australia’s resident geoscientists in lean periods” Mr Spilsbury said.
“Investment in exploration also needs to be supported to promote sustainability and maintain Australia’s resource project pipeline, which underpins the nation’s economic prosperity, has a significant employment multiplier, and drives innovation which improves productivity and leads to the development of new goods and services.”
“The human element of this protracted downturn has not received adequate attention”. “The cyclical nature of geoscience employment in Australia needs to be considered.” “Taxation measures such as income averaging or income splitting, where the working member of a couple is able to allocate part of their income to a partner who cannot work, or cannot secure work, need to be carefully considered”. “Income splitting has been shown to be highly effective in Canada where it enables many productive individuals to stay in work in difficult times” Mr Spilsbury said.
“First and foremost, Australia’s geoscientists need to be able to get back to work where it matters”.