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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.

March Quarter 2017 Geoscientist Employment Survey Open!

This latest instalment in AIG’s Australian Geoscientist Employment survey series will provide data on trends in geoscientist employment in Australia during the first quarter of 2017.

The improvement in employment prospects for Australia’s geoscientists evident during 2016 came to an end in the final quarter of the year.

At 31st December 2016, the unemployment rate amongst Australian geoscientists was 14.4% and the under-employment rate was 19.5%, up slightly from 13.9% and 18.8% respectively at the end of September 2016. The unemployment and underemployment rates at the end of 2016 were, however, lower than those recorded earlier in the year.

There have been signs of improvement in the employment situation and state of the resource exploration sector in Australia. Consultants are reporting increased workloads but exploration expenditure in Australia remains flat. The land areas held under exploration licence in Australia also continue to decline.

This survey is opening only a relatively short time after the December quarter 2016 survey – this survey opens a month later than usual due to the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Thanks to your support, this survey series is becoming increasingly recognised 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. Importantly, the data supports advocacy by AIG on the need to improve access to land for responsible, well executed resource exploration throughout Australia. 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.

Complete the survey now by following this link.  The survey will be open until Friday 28th April.