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Jobless numbers climb in 1Q for Australia’s geoscientists but sector so far sidesteps more serious COVID-led impacts

Australian Institute of Geoscientists > Employment > Jobless numbers climb in 1Q for Australia’s geoscientists but sector so far sidesteps more serious COVID-led impacts

Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey results: April 2020

Australian geoscientists reported a deterioration in employment in the first three months of 2020.  Fears, however, that the coronavirus pandemic would have a deep and dramatic impact on employment, have not as yet materialised. 

Unemployment amongst Australia’s geoscientists increased to 10.0% at the end of the March 2020 quarter compared to 7.3% at the end of the 2019 December quarter. Under-employment amongst self-employed geoscientists increased from 13.1% to 18.1% for the same period.

Geoscientist unemployment and under-employment in Australia June 2009-March 2020

“Widespread speculation that the coronavirus pandemic would have a rapid and dramatic impact on geoscientist employment across Australia, where more than 70% of geoscientists work in mineral and energy resource exploration, mining and production, isn’t borne out by the latest survey results,” Australian Institute of Geoscientists’ President, Mr Andrew Waltho, said today.  

“The first quarter of each year is frequently marked by an upturn in unemployment, with exploration fieldwork in particular reduced following the summer holidays and northern Australian wet season,” Mr Waltho said. “We have not to date seen anything like the dramatic downturn in employment associated with the global financial crisis in 2009,” he said.  

“It is a welcoming sign to see that many employers, so far, have been able to retain geoscientist staff, demonstrating a commitment to both their people and business resilience, especially when the proportion of geoscientists employed by small to medium sized companies is considered.

“Geoscientists, however, haven’t escaped entirely unscathed. Self-employed geoscientists working as consultants and contractors are experiencing a downturn in their ability to secure work greater than is normally evident at this time of year, which we should expect to be reflected in exploration and mineral resource production,” Mr Waltho said.  

The decline in employment nationally was not even.

Unemployment amongst geoscientists increased in every state except Queensland where unemployment was little changed between December 2019 and March 2020.  Unemployment in Western Australia increased by 1.6%.  The greatest increases  were recorded in Victoria (11.1%) and South Australia (13.8%).  

State. by state unemployment and under-employment rates Q1 2020

Under-employment amongst self-employed geoscientists increased significantly in all states except Queensland, where again, little change was observed in the quarter. 

The contributions of mineral resource exploration, mining and energy resource exploration and production vary markedly between states.

Long-term unemployment remains the darkest aspect of the survey results with almost 29% of survey respondents reporting that they have been out of work for more than 12 months.  Six percent of respondents were looking to pursue careers beyond geosciences on a long-term basis. A further 12% were seeking work to help them deal with current employment conditions affecting geosciences in Australia.  

Continued professional development by geoscientists is strongly encouraged, with provision of accessible professional development resources a major focus of professional institutes, including AIG. More than one quarter of unemployed geoscientists reported that they were working to improve their qualifications and skills through formal study while unable to secure work.

Sources of employment for geoscientists by state

“In one sense, the survey results are re-assuring in the initial impact on employment of the coronavirus being more muted than many geoscience professionals feared,” Mr Waltho said.

“The potential for more severe impacts on employment remain.

“The situation, however, has some way to run and AIG will now be looking to the June survey to demonstrate how Australia’s minerals and energy exploration and mining industry is coping with the impacts of the pandemic.  

“The need to move to a new way of working is affecting everyone in Australia to some extent.

“The AIG’s priority is to continue to deliver professional development and networking opportunities to members using on-line delivery of seminars, and short courses allowing exchange of information between members,” Mr Waltho said.  

“Some of these new ways of working may well outlive the impacts of the pandemic, but ultimately geoscientists, particularly those working in exploration, need safe and effective access to land to deliver results. Returning to a safe and effective means of accessing land will be essential going forward,” he said.

The next survey will open for contributions at the end of June 2020.