aig_pagebanner02_Bulga-coal-mine

Geoscientist employment opportunities continue improvement despite June quarter slowdown

Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey June 2019

Employment opportunities for Australia’s geoscientists continued to show a very slowl-improving trend, despite disappoini.ng results for the second quarter (April to June). 

The second quarter setback saw unemployment rise from 7.5% at the end of March, to 9.3% at the end of June.On the other hand, underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists fell from 20.5% to 14.9% for the same period.  The underemployment figure represents the proportion of self-employed geoscientists unable to secure more than one quarter of their desired workload.

The survey was completed by 734 respondents nationally.  Some 66% of respondents worked or sought work in mineral exploration.  A further 18% worked in metalliferous mining, while 5% of respondents worked or sought work in energy resource exploration and production.

Half of Australia’s geoscientists who are currently unemployed have been without work for more than 12 months.  A similar proportion sees little prospect of regaining employment in their field in the year ahead.  Almost one in ten unemployed geoscientists are looking to leave the profession, seeking more stable employment.

“The depressed employment prospects for geoscientists are a surprise given mineral exploration expenditure rose during the June quarter according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released last week although mineral exploration drilling declined,” AIG President, Andrew Waltho said. 

“There is little doubt that junior exploration and mining companies especially are experiencing difficulty raising capital to fund new exploration and producers are having to deal with considerable uncertainty and price volatility, at least partly due to trade tensions between the USA and China” Mr Waltho said.

“The increase in work secured by self-employed geoscientists is most welcome, especially in light of the sharp increase in under-employment observed in the previous survey,” Mr Waltho said.

“Long term unemployment is the big issue in these figures.  Half of Australia’s unemployed geoscientists have been without work for 12 months or more, and a similar number see no new opportunities on the horizon,” he said.

“Professional institutes, including AIG, are doing whatever we can to help members remain in touch with their colleagues and peers and maintain their skills, but it’s pretty hard to remain motivated when industry conditions appear to be stagnant,” Mr Waltho said.

The employment situation varied significantly between states in the latest survey results.

The lowest levels of both unemployment and under-employment were recorded in Western Australia.  Unemployment amongst professional geoscientists fell from 8.5% at the end of March to 7.8% at the end of June, while under-employment fell from 17.6% to 11.0% for the same period.

Victoria recorded the largest fall in the unemployment rate, from 11.8% at the end of March to 5.9% in June.  Under-employment in Victoria also fell from 17.6% at the end of March to 14.7% at the end of June.

Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia all recorded increases in both unemployment and under-employment.  Only a small number of responses were received from geoscientists working in the Northern Territory and Tasmania, which indicated near-full employment of small pools of local geoscientists.

Overall improvement trend in geoscientist unemployment continues, but self-employed geoscientists still doing it tough

Australian Geoscientist employment survey results for Q4 2018 released.

  • Call also made for greater political action to ensure more equitable and timely access to land for exploration
  • More women also forging geoscience careers

The latest quarterly Australian geoscientist unemployment survey for the final quarter of 2018, conducted during January 2019, revealed a slight increasein geoscientist unemployment, from 8.3% at the end of September, to 9.1% at the end of December 2018. Underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists, however, rose significantly from 12.9% to 18.5% for the same period.

However, despite the dip for the past quarter, the new results pointed to evidence of an overall improving job trend since June 2016.

“This latest quarterly result is disappointing”, Australian Institute of Geoscientists spokesperson, Mr Andrew Waltho said today, “coming at a time when there was genuine optimism regarding an improvement in exploration activity, several, significant new mineral discoveries, and speculation regarding potential skills shortages facing the exploration and mining sectors”.  

Geoscientist employment in Australia June 2009 – December 2018

“Both the Federal Government and Opposition have announced initiatives to support mineral exploration research if elected in the May Federal election, but no-one is talking about improving processes facilitating equitable and timely access to land for exploration,” Mr Waltho said. 

“In fairness, this is a state issue, but we are still seeing bureaucratic and lengthy processes in operation that disadvantage the junior exploration sector in particular, with little sign of change,” Mr Waltho said.

The unemployment and underemployment situation varied widely between states.  Unemployment was lowest in South Australia (5.3%), NSW and ACT (5.6%) and Victoria (5.9%), followed by Western Australia (8.3%).  The results for Victoria and South Australia represent marked improvements on the previous, September quarter survey.  Unemployment in Western Australia was 8.3%, up from 6.5%. Unemployment in Queensland jumped from 11.5% in the September quarter to 15.1% in this survey.

Employment state by state. Too few survey responses were received from South Australia and the Northern Territory for inclusion.

All states except South Australia saw little change or an increase in unemployment in the 12 months between December 2017 and December 2018, but an overall improving trend since June 2016 remains evident.

The underemployment rate in South Australia took some gloss off the positive unemployment figure, coming in at 36.8% for the quarter, followed by Queensland (24.2%), NSW/ACT (16.9%), Western Australia (14.9%) and Victoria (11.8%).  

The survey attracted 391 individual responses.  Too few responses were received from Tasmania and the Northern Territory for the reporting of state results.

Junior exploration and mining companies employ 29% of Australia’s geoscientists according to this survey, almost as many as major and mid-tier companies combined.  

Cultural shift needed

“This amply demonstrates the importance of measures to help small employers avoid burning precious capital waiting for approvals before conducting productive exploration activities” Mr Waltho said.  

“Small companies have a limited capital base on which is difficult to raise further funds and must be used productively if they are to survive,” Mr Waltho said.

“Early career geoscientists tend to be employed in greater numbers by major mining and exploration companies but this soon changes as geoscientists gain professional experience, suggesting that major companies need to look more closely at retaining talent by providing a more dynamic and professionally rewarding professional environment for their staff,” Mr Waltho said.

Sources of employment for Australian geoscientists
Geoscientist employment in mineral exploration, by company tier

Women are represented almost equally in the geoscience staff of major, mid-tier and junior exploration companies.  The overall proportion of women in the workforce remains low, but large, mid-sized and junior companies don’t appear to either discriminate or be preferred sources of employment.

“Gender diversity in exploration and mining, long-considered to be a male dominated profession in Australia is changing rapidly” Mr Waltho said. “Almost half of the early career geoscientists (0-5 years’ experience) who responded to this latest survey were women,” Mr Waltho said.  “The sector is clearly creating career opportunities for women that are being taken up and we need to ensure that this trend continues through measures to promote and preserve gender diversity,” he said.

 “A drop in the proportion of women in the 5 – 10 year experience range is evident, but the proportion of women in the profession increases again in the 10 – 15 year range, suggesting, perhaps, that we are seeing the benefit of measures such as flexible employment and favourable parental leave provisions that enable geoscientists to mix raising a family with pursuit of a career. “This again, is something we need to build,” Mr Waltho said.  

Gender diversity amongst survey respondents. Women comprised 45% of early career geoscientists responding to the survey – signs of a very welcome trend towards more women taking up geoscience as their career

“The fact that we are seeing evidence pointing to this is a real positive for both the exploration and mining industry and our profession,” Mr Waltho said.

September quarter Australian geoscientist employment survey open

This survey, available here, will provide data on trends in geoscientist employment in Australia during the third quarter (July to October) of 2018.  In the June quarter, the Australian geoscientists unemployment rate fell to 8.5%.

Australian geoscientist employment and underemployment – Jun 2009 to Jun 2018

This was the lowest level of unemployment seen in several years and the survey results indicated that some long term unemployed geoscientists were returning to work.

Every state, except Queensland, experienced a decrease in unemployment during the June quarter.  The unemployment rate in Queensland increased from 11.3% at the end of March to 12.2% at the end of June.  In Western Australia, unemployment fell from 9.4% to 7.9%.  In South Australia, the unemployment rate fell from 11.1% to 10.3%.

The period covered by this survey is typically one of the busiest times in the Australian exploration field season, which will make the results of this survey especially interesting.

The survey takes only two or three minutes to complete.  You do not need to be an AIG member to contribute.  No data that could personally identify respondents is collected.  Contributions to the survey are required from both employed and unemployed geoscientists to ensure the relevance of results.  Your completing the survey really helps to make a difference to the standing and knowledge of our profession.

The survey will be open for contributions until 26th October.  Every contribution adds to the reliability of the survey results.

Thanks in advance for your support

Have you contributed to the latest Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey?

The latest instalment in the Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey series is open for contributions until this Saturday 21st July.  

The latest instalment in this survey series is designed to provide data on trends in geoscientist employment in Australia during the second quarter (April to June) of 2018.

Please contribute to the survey personally, encourage your peers and colleagues to participate and share news of the survey via social media.  We need as many contributions as possible from Australian geoscientists working or seeking work in any sector of our profession.  You do not need to be an AIG member to contribute – we would like to hear from as many geoscientists working or seeking work in Australia as possible.

Please click here to complete the survey.

The data collected by this series of surveys helps AIG to develop a consistently based, robust and reliable view of employment trends affecting our profession.

The first quarter 2018 survey showed the recovery in geoscientist employment evident in the latter half of 2017 had stalled.

The general feeling, however, is that prospects for geoscience employment in Australia, particularly in exploration and mining, should be improving as a result of increased investment across Australia.  How this is translating into jobs will be demonstrated by the survey results.

No data that could personally identify respondents is collected.  Contributions to the survey are required from both employed and unemployed geoscientists to ensure the relevance of results.

Your completing the survey really helps to make a difference to the standing and knowledge of our profession.

Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey – September 2017

The 2017 September quarter Australian geoscientist employment survey is open for contributions until 21st October.  You can complete the survey here.

This survey will provide data on trends in geoscientist employment in Australia during the third (June to September) quarter of 2017.

The June 2017 employment survey showed that unemployment and under-employment for geoscientists continued to improve, although the rate of improvement was observed to differ markedly between different sectors of our profession.  Mineral exploration fared worse than metalliferous mining and energy resource exploration and production.  The survey results supported a broader perception of improving employment conditions for mining professionals but demonstrated that Australia’s mineral project pipeline remains fragile due to a lack of exploration contributing to new discoveries needed to sustain the industry.  Exploration investment, however, has also increased according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.  This survey will provide data on whether this has contributed to improved employment opportunities.

AIG needs your support by completing this survey.  The survey results are reported widely and used to promote and inform others of the health of our exploration and mining industry.  The data supports advocacy by AIG on the need for responsible, sustainable resource exploration throughout Australia.

The survey takes only two minutes to complete.  You do not need to be an AIG member to contribute.  No data that could personally identify respondents is collected.

Your completing the survey really helps to make a difference to the standing and knowledge of our profession.

The survey will remain open for contributions until 21st October but please take two minute to complete it now.