Employment conditions improve for Australian geoscientists

Employment prospects for Australian geoscientists improved during the first quarter of 2017, according to the Australian Institute of Geoscientist’s latest employment survey.

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

The ‘real’ unemployment rate – unemployed geoscientists and underemployed geoscientists able to achieve less than 25 per cent of their desired workload – was 21.7 per cent, down from 24.5 per cent in the final quarter of 2016.

The proportion of geoscientists seeking to leave their profession to seek work fell from 11.4 per cent in the final quarter of 2016 to 7.9 per cent 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 per cent and the corresponding underemployment rate was 23.4 per cent.

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

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

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

Long-term unemployment remains a real concern. Almost 62 per cent of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists reported that they had been out of work for 12 months or more. 16 per cent of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists had lost their jobs during the quarter. More than 53 per cent 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 10 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” Institute spokesperson 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.”

“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.”

Waltho said long-term employment amongst Australian geoscientists was 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,” Waltho concluded.

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