Geoscientific employment in Australia continues to plumb new depths, with record underemployment since the start of the Australian geoscientist employment survey in 2009.
The Australia Institute of Geoscientists recorded an unemployment rate of 18.7 per cent among geoscientists for the December Quarter 2015, as well as the record under-employment rate of 42.1 per cent.
With less than 50 per cent of self-employed geoscientists able to secure more than one quarter of their desired workload, AIG highlighted this equated to a real unemployment rate of 31.1 per cent, around 10 per cent higher than unemployment at the time of the Global Financial Crisis of 2009.
The only state to remain static was NSW, while in Victoria unemployment fell but under-employment increased.
Queensland fared the worst with a 15 per cent increase in unemployment on the September quarter.
Nearly 15 per cent of under- and unemployed geoscientists said they were working in an unrelated field, while 45 per cent said they were actively seeking new employment.
AIG president Wayne Spilsbury said he was disappointed but not surprised at the latest results.
“It’s profoundly troubling to see so many highly qualified, experienced, committed professionals unable to apply their skills to contributing to Australia’s economic security,” Spilsbury said.
“The situation in mineral and energy resource exploration is particularly troubling as the prolonged downturn in the sector is damaging Australia’s project development pipeline.”
Spilsbury said he had fears about the future of the mining industry in Australia, with the lack of exploration work pointing to the potential for gaps in critical mineral supplies in the coming years.
“Discoveries do not turn into mines overnight. We’re not exploring now and the industry cannot be switched back on overnight, so we’re facing a real prospect into the latter half of the next decade of reduced development of new projects to support Australia’s economy and standard of living,” he said.
The Federal Government recently heralded the success of the Exploration Development Incentive (EDI) fund, which has distributed funds among 84 small exploration companies in the past year resulting in $70 million worth of spending on greenfields developments.
Spilsbury said he applauded the EDI, but that the funds would largely be spent on land procurement, with little direct benefit to geologists and related fields.
“In some states, it can take a year or more once an exploration licence is granted to gain the necessary regulatory approvals to get boots on the ground for the simplest, non-ground-disturbing reconnaissance exploration,” Spilsbury said.
“Remember, when we talk about a geologist or geophysicist being unemployed in the exploration sector, we’re also talking about three or four other Australians not having an ancillary job.”