Geoscientist employment improves in Q3

Australian geoscientist employment improved marginally in the third quarter of 2019.

The latest AIG Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey revealed that unemployment amongst Australian. geoscientists fell to 7.4% at the end of September, down from 9.3% at the end of July. The underemployment rate also fell to 14.1%, from 14.9% for the same period.

Australian geoscientist employment – June 2009 to September 2019

The survey results, at a national level, continue a gradually improving trend evident since March 2016, but the rate of improvement appears to have slowed since March 2018.

The number of long-term unemployed geoscientists continued to increase with 47% of unemployed and under-employed geoscientists having little to no work for more than one year, or more than two years for 34% of respondents.

AIG President, Andrew Waltho, welcomed the continued improvement in both the unemployment and under-employment rates, with the reservation that the rate of improvement remains slow. “The most disappointing and serious statistic is the proportion of long term unemployed and under-employed geoscientists” Mr Waltho said. “AIG and kindred professional institutes continue to promote the need to recognise the high-level scientific skills possessed by this pool of experienced professionals that can be applied in a broad range of fields where an ability to understand and interpret Earth systems and processes is valuable”. “In the meantime, AIG continues to provide members with effective and accessible opportunities for members to maintain and expand their professional networks and undertake continued professional development” Mr Waltho said. “Members accessing these opportunities are actively working to resurrect their careers and value this support” he said.

The unemployment and under-employment rates amongst geoscientists in Australia varied substantially between states.

Unemployment amongst geoscientists decreased in Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, but increased in Victoria and South Australia. The greatest improvement in unemployment was evident in Victoria. No Northern Territory respondents responded as being unemployed. Too few responses were received from Tasmania for state results to be reported.

Under-employment, defined as respondents being able to attract less than 25% of their desired workload, decreased in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia but increased in Western Australia, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory. The lowest under-employment results was evident in Victoria.

Australian geoscientist unemployment and under-employment by state – September 2019

Almost 71% of respondents reported being full-time employees, on staff or fixed term contracts. Only 3% work part time and between 4% and 5% are casual employees. Self-employed geoscientists comprise 22% of the profession.

Australian geoscientist employment basis – September 2019

Geoscience remains a male dominated profession in Australia.

Some 85% of survey respondents were men and 15% women. One respondent identified with neither gender. There are relatively more women pursuing geoscience careers in Australia in the 0-15 years experience groups, with the highest proportion of women responding to the survey having between 10 and 15 years experience.

Gender diversity in Australian geoscience – September 2019

“Clearly, more needs to be done to attract women to geoscience careers, and retain women in the profession with more than 15 years experience if gender equity is to be achieved” Mr Waltho said. “It’s a serious issue, central to the public recognition vitality of the geoscience profession that will take concerted and committed action by all geoscientists in Australia to address”.

The next employment survey will open for contributions in early January 2020. AIG values the continued support of both members and non-members who take a few minutes to complete the survey each quarter and encourages as many geoscientists working in all sectors of the profession in Australia to contribute.

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.

Employment recovery back on track for Australian geoscientists – but no sign of a boom

The recovery in employment opportunities for Australia’s geoscientists resumed in the June quarter, with the unemployment rate falling to 8.5% from 11.1% in March. 

Australian geoscientist employment and underemployment – Jun 2009 to Jun 2018

A small increase in the underemployment, or skills underutilisation rate was observed, with 12.9% in March coming in at 13.2% in the latest survey.

This survey series experienced continued, strong support from Australian geoscientists with just over 700 responses received from across Australia.  The number of responses increased in every state.

AIG spokesperson Andrew Waltho welcomed the survey results.  “It’s very encouraging to see the recovery in employment conditions evident since March 2016 continuing, even at a very modest rate, pointing to a recovery in mineral and energy resource exploration, development and production in Australia” Mr Waltho said.

“The improvement in the survey results is consistent with what we have been hearing from members – slightly better job prospects but a number of candidates vying for each position”.

“Again, long term unemployment remains a major concern, although the proportion of geoscientists who have been unemployed or seeking additional work fell from almost 70% to under 60% in the three months between March and June” Mr Waltho said.

“It’s great to see this improvement, but it demonstrates the need for professional bodies representing geoscientists to maintain their efforts to provide accessible professional development and networking opportunities so that members can maintain and improve their skills, and maintain contact with their peers”.

Mr Waltho said maintaining such effort would continue to be a key focus for the Institute with the AIG doing whatever it can to ensure that members seeking work are attractive to employers when an opportunity arises.

“We are encouraged by continuing reports that industry activity is still increasing and creating career opportunities for geoscientists, which will hopefully be evident in the September quarter results” Mr Waltho said.

Mineral exploration employment in Australia has been subject to considerable volatility since June 2009, when these surveys commenced, as following chart shows.

Proportion of Australia’s geoscientists employed in mineral exploration

The data clearly show a seasonal influence on employment.  Self-employed geoscientists expect that there will be less work available during the Australian summer, with the combined impact of the northern Australia wet season creating access difficulties and traditional holidays.  It appears, though, that employment volatility has decreased since September 2015, and the improving trend in employment since then is clear.  These are both interpreted to be positive signs.  The proportion of Australian geoscientists working in mineral exploration also demonstrates the importance of the sector, highlighting the need to maintain equitable conditions for access to land and provision of pre-competitive data by governments.

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%.

Dramatic improvement in employment was recorded in New South Wales and Victoria, where the unemployment rates fell from 18.4% to 2.1%, and from 16.7% to 3.0% respectively.

Changes in the underemployment rate were less dramatic.  In western Australia, the rate increased slightly from 10.8% to 11.6%. In South Australia, the rate decreased from 33.3% to 17.2%, and small decreases were recorded in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Too few survey responses were received from Northern Territory and Tasmania to report state results.

Geoscientist unemployment and underemployment – state by state

The next survey will be collected from 30thSeptember 2018.

First Quarter Australian Geoscientist Employment

Jobs setback for Australian geoscientists as 2018 opening quarter cools after improved employment over 2017

The employment recovery amongst Australia’s geoscientists has taken a step backward in the opening quarter of 2018 – cooling by more than four percent after a full year of improved employment outcomes over calendar 2017.
Unemployment nationally among geoscientists – who are prominent in the mining and exploration sectors – increased from 7.0% in at the end of December 2017 to 11.1% at the end of March 2018. Underemployment remained little changed at 12.9% at the end of March 2018 compared with 12.3% at the end of December 2017.

Geoscientist employment and under-employment in Australia June 2009 – March 2018

The survey again enjoyed strong support from Australian geoscientists with almost 500 responses received from across Australia.

AIG spokesperson, Mr Andrew Waltho, described the latest results as disappointing and evidence that the recovery in geoscientist employment, especially in exploration and mining, “has some way to go”.

“The final quarter of 2017 marked the fourth successive quarter of employment growth, so the decrease in employment prospects during the first quarter of 2018 is disappointing, particularly for those who have been seeking work for more than a year,” Mr Waltho said.

“The trend over the past 12 months, however, remains positive and we hope that this setback proves to be due to seasonal factors, affecting mineral exploration in particular, and isn’t a sign that exploration and mining activity in Australia is again showing signs of cooling in Australia,” he said. “It will be informative to compare these results with Australian Bureau of Statistics’ mineral exploration expenditure and drilling activity statistics for the first quarter of 2018, when they are released in a couple of months.”

Mr Waltho said long term unemployment remained a real concern, with almost 70% of jobless geoscientists being out of work for more than 12 months.

“This job market environment contributes to a real loss of talent as unemployed geoscientists struggle to remain in touch with developments in their profession,” Mr Waltho said. “Helping unemployed geoscientists maintain their skills and maintain contact with peers through delivering professional development opportunities therefore remains one of AIG’s highest priorities.”

Every state experienced an increase in both unemployment and underemployment during the March 2018 quarter. In the states with significant numbers of geoscientists seeking work, Western Australia had the lowest unemployment, followed by South Australia and Queensland. The highest level of unemployment was recorded in New South Wales and the ACT. Self-employed geoscientists generally fared similarly or better than those in company employment, except in South Australia.

State by state geoscientist unemployment and underemployment, March 2018

During the 12 months between the end of March 2017 and March 2018, unemployment rates fell in Queensland and South Australia, remained little changed in Western Australia, but increased markedly in other states. Underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists decreased, or showed little change, in all states except South Australia where it increased by almost 5%.

The next survey will be conducted from 30th June 2018.

Unemployment and underemployment trends – March 2017 to March 2018

Andrew Waltho, Brisbane, 0412 426 764,

Geoscientist Employment Recovery Slows

Reported significant improvement earlier this year in employment prospects for professionals in Australia’s exploration and mining industry has slowed, according to the latest Australian geoscientist employment survey results collected by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists for the quarter up to the end of June 2017.

During the second quarter of 2017, geoscientist employment across Australia improved marginally ­­­compared to the previous quarter.  AIG’s latest survey indicates that the unemployment rate amongst Australia’s geoscientists, at 30 June 2017, was 11.3%.  The corresponding underemployment rate was 19.0%.  This represents a very welcome but small decrease in unemployment, down from 12.1% at the end of March 2017, offset by an increase in the underemployment rate, from 18.3% to 19.0%, during the quarter.

Geoscientist unemployment and under-employment in Australia June 2009 – June 2017

Decreases in the unemployment rate are now evident in four of the past five surveys.

Australia’s self-employed geoscientists, independent contractors and consultants, continue to face difficult times with only half able to secure one quarter of their desired workload.

The employment situation varies markedly between industry sectors.  The unemployment in mineral and energy resource exploration in this survey was 14.2%, compared to 6.9% in mineral and energy resource mining and production.  The unemployment rate amongst geoscientists working in other fields, such as environmental geoscience, groundwater resource management, engineering geology, education and agriculture, was 4.0%.

Unemployment and underemployment rates varied significantly between states.  Unemployment was highest in Western Australia at 12.3%, the only State in which unemployment was observed to increase.  South Australia recorded the lowest unemployment rate at 4.2% and the greatest improvement in the unemployment rate during the quarter.  Underemployment was lowest in Western Australia, highest in South Australia and worsened in every State except Western Australia and Queensland.


Geoscientist unemployment and underemployment by State


Changes in state unemployment and underemployment during Q2 2016

Long term unemployment decreased but remains a serious concern, with more than 60% of unemployed and underemployed not confident of returning to work within the next 12 months.  More than 13% of unemployed geoscientists regained employment during the quarter, but this was more than offset by geoscientists losing employment.   Sentiment amongst geoscientists in employment, however, improved, with more than half indicating that they were confident of remaining in employment for the next 12 months or more.

Almost 20% of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists indicated that they were seeking to leave their profession, up 4% from the previous quarter, continuing an increasing trend. 

Some 61% of respondents indicated that they were working, or seeking work in mineral exploration.  14% were working or seeking work in metalliferous mining, and almost 8% of respondents were working or seeking work in energy resource exploration, mining and production.

AIG spokesperson, Mr Andrew Waltho, expressed concerns regarding the slow recovery in employment opportunities for geoscientists in Australia, particularly in mineral exploration.  “While our latest survey clearly shows that employment prospects for geoscientists are slowly improving generally, with four of the past five surveys recording a decrease in the unemployment rate, exploration activity remains low.  “This has serious implications for the sustainability of Australia’s mining industry by threatening the strength of our mineral resource project pipeline.  “Both greenfield and brownfield exploration is essential if discoveries are to be made to replace, let alone expand, the resource base on which miners produce essential minerals on which our society and economy relies” he said.

“There are some very positive signs in the latest survey results,” Mr Waltho said.  “Unemployment is down, albeit slightly, and employment appears to be strong in the non-mining and resources fields, which represent a small but growing sector in Australian geoscience.  “Employment opportunities in mining appear to be improving and while long term unemployment amongst Australian geoscientists remains high, the rate is falling.  “It is also encouraging to see that higher rates of unemployment amongst geoscientists with more than 25 years of experience evident in past surveys have come back to levels closer to those for other experience bands.

“The lack of employment opportunities in exploration, however, highlights a serious and growing problem of insufficient exploration being undertaken to sustain our resource industries,” Mr Waltho said­.  “Geologists and geophysicists are, without doubt, continuously improving exploration technologies and becoming more productive, but this alone won’t make up for a lack of activity – the boots on ground search for new resources.

“Improving access to land, particularly for zero and very low impact exploration activities and addressing areas of sovereign risk that are increasingly being seen by investors as raising the risk profile of exploration, urgently need to be addressed,” Mr Waltho said.  “Addressing these two issues throughout Australia has the potential to make an enormous difference in both employment and the future of Australia’s mining industry”.