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”.

June 2017 Employment Survey Open until 28 July

It’s time for another quarterly snapshot of the geoscientist employment situation in Australia.

This survey will provide data on trends in geoscientist employment in Australia during the second quarter of 2017.

The March 2017 employment survey showed that unemployment and under-employment for geoscientists had fallen in three of the last four quarters – encouraging news after a prolonged downturn.  Since then, there has been considerable speculation in the media regarding of an upturn in both exploration and mining, with some talking up employment prospects to the point that fears of a skills shortage were being voiced.  This survey will provide a much needed measure of the current situation for geoscientists.  Several resources companies have, this year, reintroduced graduate and vacation employment programmes – a very welcome development and, perhaps, a sign that they are seeking to lock in skills for their futures.

At 31st March 2017, the unemployment rate amongst Australian geoscientists was 12.1%, down from 14.4% in the final quarter of 2016.

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.  As always, 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.
The survey may be completed by following this link.

Welcome Improvement in Australian Geoscientist Employment

Employment prospects for Australia’s embattled geoscientists improved during the first quarter of 2017 according to the latest Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists during April.

Unemployment amongst geoscientists during the survey period was 12.1%, down from 14.4% in the fourth quarter of 2016.  Underemployment (geoscientists unable to secure their desired level of self employment) was 18.3%, down from 19.5% in the previous quarter.

Geoscientist unemployment in Australia – June 2009 to March 2017

The “real” unemployment rate (unemployed geoscientists and underemployed geoscientists able to achieve less than 25% of their desired workload was 21.7%, down from 24.5% in the final quarter of 2016.

The proportion of geoscientists seeking to leave their profession to seek work fell from 11.4% in the final quarter of 2016 to 7.9% in the latest survey.

An improvement in both unemployment and underemployment has now been evident in three of the past four surveys, supporting anecdotal evidence of a modest upturn in industry activity evident over the past year.  The unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2016 was 19.5% and the corresponding underemployment rate was 23.4%.

On a state by state basis, the unemployment rate ranged from 6.9% in New South Wales and the ACT to 14.8% in Queensland.  The underemployment rate was lowest in Victoria at 10.7% and highest in South Australia at 28.6%.

Geoscientist unemployment and underemployment on a state by state basis, Q1 2017

The unemployment rate fell in every state except Queensland, where it increased by almost 2% during the first quarter of 2017.  Underemployment fell in every state.


Geoscientist unemployment and underemployment on a state by state basis, Q1 2017.

Too few responses were received from geoscientists working in the Northern Territory and Tasmania to report state results.

Full-time, part-time and self-employment rates remained similar to those observed in the previous survey, at 77%, 5% and 18% respectively.  Some 59% of survey respondents work, or seek work in mineral exploration, 16% in metalliferous mining and 7% in energy resource (coal, oil and gas) exploration and production.

Long-term unemployment remains a real concern.  Almost 62% of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists reported that they had been out of work for 12 months or more.  16% of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists had lost their jobs during the quarter.  More than 53% were not confident of regaining employment in the next 12 months.

Just over half of the survey respondents currently in employment were confident of retaining their jobs for at least the next 12 months.

The survey attracted a total of 736 responses – more than one in ten geoscientists in Australia.

“After such a prolonged period of bad news on geoscientist employment in Australia, it’s good to have something clearly positive to report” spokesperson for the Institute, Mr Andrew Waltho said.  “The decline in unemployment and underemployment that we first saw some signs of in the latter part of 2016 appears to be continuing, reflecting a pick-up in exploration for minerals”.

“This good news, however, is no cause for complacency” Mr Waltho said.

“Geoscientist unemployment in Australia is still roughly three-times that of the Australian workforce in general, which is not good news for both the profession and the exploration and mining industry which accounts for the bulk of geoscientist jobs in Australia”.  “They work in an industry which drives a very large piece of Australia’s economy and provides both direct and indirect employment for tens of thousands of Australians” Mr Waltho said.  “Current levels of geoscientist employment are better than they were 12 months ago but are only back to mid-2013 levels” Mr Waltho said.

“More than two thirds of Australian geoscientists work in minerals exploration and mining”.  The Institute asked geoscientists what they thought were the biggest barriers to greater employment in Australia, to which the overwhelming response was access to land for exploration” Mr Waltho said. “Recent research, published on AIG’s website, shows that the area of each state in Australia under exploration licence has fallen consistently over the past decade”.  The most recent global survey of exploration and mining company managers undertaken by Canada’s Fraser Institute paints a varied picture of the attractiveness of policies and regulations governing mining and exploration in each Australian state”.  “Western Australia and South Australia were identified as providing desirable conditions for exploration and mining”.  “At the same time, one state was ranked lower than Russia as a destination for exploration and mining investment which is simply not good enough” Mr Waltho said.  Australia needs to compete globally for investment in new projects”.  “We have the skills and expertise to conduct world-leading exploration and mining geoscience but we need to ensure that Australia is seen to be an attractive place to invest, in which equitable access to land for responsibly conducted fieldwork is key”.

“Long term unemployment amongst Australian geoscientists is a real concern”.  A majority of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists are striving to secure new employment that still isn’t there, resulting in significant numbers of highly skilled and experienced professionals seeking work outside their chosen field” Mr Waltho said.

The improvement in this survey hopefully provides some encouragement for students who will be entering the geoscience profession over the next few years”.  “We are seeing some companies reinvigorate graduate recruitment and development programmes that have been a missing feature in the geoscience arena for a number of years which is also really encouraging” Mr Waltho said.  “We need more, both financial and intellectual, investment in Australia’s future to maximize the value of our mineral and human resources” Mr Waltho said.