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Latest geoscientist employment survey open

The latest Australian geoscientist employment survey is open for contributions until 24th October 2020.

The second quarter 2020 employment survey, conducted in June, provided a first look at how Australian geoscience, particularly mineral exploration and mining, was being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. 

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

The slight improvement in employment conditions evident from the results of the first quarter survey for 2020 was unexpected.  This was interpreted as a sign that companies were seeking to retain staff and continuity of exploration programs and mining operations.  Since then, Victoria has experienced a second, more serious wave of infections resulting in renewed, strict limits on business activity and mobility of staff between states.  International travel remains out of the question for many Australians.  How was geoscience employment affected? 

We have added a question to this survey relating to where you work relative to where you completed your highest degree.  A debate is emerging around whether Australia needs to be more self-sufficient in meeting geoscience skills needs in all areas of work, which new data is needed to address.

The survey typically 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 sought 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 24 October 2020.  Every contribution adds to the reliability of the survey results. Sincere thanks in advance for your continued support of the survey series.

Click here to complete the survey.

Brisbane, 12th August 2020

Geoscientist employment in Australia improved in the second quarter of 2020.  Nationally, unemployment decreased to 8.6% from 10% in the March quarter, while underemployment also fell to 17.4% from 18.1% for the period.

Geoscientist unemployment and underemployment in Australia June 2009 – June 2020

AIG President, Andrew Waltho, described the improvement as most welcome.  “The level of improvement observed in the survey results was small but defied the increase in unemployment observed in the Australian community as a whole, and the sharp downturn in economic activity affecting Australia’s economy” Mr Waltho said.  “Some caution is needed with the improvement recorded only representing half of the increase observed during the first quarter of this year, but any improvement under the economic conditions prevailing in Australia at the moment is both welcome and encouraging” Mr Waltho said.

“With more than three-quarters of Australia’s geoscientists working in exploration and mining, the results point to the absolute importance of our mineral resource industries in helping to maintain economic activity in Australia, even while in recession” Mr Waltho said.  

“This quarter is also the first time since the 2011 minerals boom that geoscientist unemployment has fallen below the unemployment rate for the Australian economy as a whole, pointing to the success of efforts being made to ensure business continuity and resilience during the pandemic” Mr Waltho said.  

“It is very encouraging to see mining and exploration activity continuing across Australia under very difficult conditions” Mr Waltho said.

Employment impacts varied between states.  Unemployment amongst geoscientists fell in Western Australia, but increased slightly in Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT, and Victoria.  Underemployment fell in Western Australia, New South Wales and ACT, and Victoria, and remained little changed in Queensland from the previous quarter.

Unemployment and underemployment by state – June 2020

A high proportion of self-employed geoscientists, however, continued to experience difficulty securing more than a quarter of their desired workload.

Long term unemployment remained stubbornly high, with almost 34% of unemployed geoscientists reporting having been out of work for more than 12 months, including 22% who have been out of work for more than two years.  Some 40% of unemployed geoscientists were not confident of returning to work within the next 12 months.

“Long-term unemployment continues to be of serious concern” Mr Waltho said.  

“AIG,  other professional associations and industry groups including CSIRO have responded positively to the challenges posed by the pandemic and the need to suppress the coronavirus through limiting gatherings of people by moving quickly to delivering professional development talks, seminars and short-courses on-line, allowing members to continue to develop their careers from home” Mr Waltho said.  

“These have included many talks and seminars delivered at no cost to participants in an effort to provide members with accessible and valuable professional development opportunities, essential to maintain members’ skills and motivation” Mr Waltho said.  

“In many ways, access to continued professional development opportunities has improved significantly, with events previously available only in particular cities or states accessible nationally, and by members overseas” Mr Waltho said.  

“Professional associations are learning things in response to the pandemic that will become part of the way in which they engage with members on an ongoing basis, to the benefit of all” Mr Waltho said.  

“A recent success has been delivery of structured training on public reporting of exploration results, mineral resources and ore reserves in compliance with the JORC Code which sets out minimum standards for this in Australia and New Zealand and is used as a model in many countries throughout the world”.  

“The short course was originally developed for face to face delivery but has been adapted to become a very successful and effective on-line offering that has attracted attendees from a number of overseas countries and professionals from non-geoscience fields such as banking and finance and investors to whom mineral resources and reserves are relevant to their work and future” Mr Waltho said.  

“It has been both gratifying and encouraging to receive extremely positive feedback from participants that will contribute to continuous improvement of the course”.  

“AIG is always looking at ways of improving benefits of membership to professional geoscientists globally” Mr Waltho said.

An excellent response to the survey was received nationally, with 508 geoscientists completing the survey. Responses from geoscientists in South Australia fell, however, preventing state employment and underemployment results from being reported.

The next survey will be conducted at the end of September.  All contributors, especially AIG members, are thanked for their ongoing support.

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.

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.

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.