Geoscientist employment recovery slows down

The improvement in employment prospects that Australia’s geoscientists experienced during 2016 came to an end in the final quarter of the year, according to the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG).

At December 31 2016, the unemployment rate amongst Australian geoscientists was 14.4 per cent and the under-employment rate was 19.5 per cent, up slightly from 13.9 per cent and 18.8 per cent respectively at the end of September 2016.

The unemployment and underemployment rates are, however, lower than those recorded earlier in 2016, AIG reported.

More than half of Australia’s self-employed geoscientists were unable to secure more than one quarter of their desired workload during the quarter, pointing to a real unemployment rate of 24.5 per cent, up slightly from the 24.2 per cent recorded at the end of September 2016.

The data for the latest instalment in the AIG Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey series was collected during February 2017.  The survey received 485 responses.

Results for different states were again mixed in the survey, according to AIG. The highest combined rate of unemployment and underemployment was again evident in South Australia, followed by New South Wales/ACT and Queensland.

The unemployment situation worsened in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, but remained static in Victoria and improved marginally in NSW and the ACT. Under-employment increased in every state except WA where a marginal decrease was recorded.

Long term unemployment and under-employment remained a feature of the survey.  More than 56 per cent of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists have been without work for more than 12 months, down by less than two per cent from the previous survey.

Almost half (49 per cent) of unemployed and under-employed geoscientists said that they were not confident of regaining their desired level of employment within the next 12 months.  Almost 34 per cent of unemployed and under-employed geoscientists were seeking employment in another field, with a third of those seeking to leave their profession permanently.

Amongst geoscientists in employment, one in 10 returned to work after a period of unemployment or under-employment between September and December 2016.

The breakdown of employment by industry sector differed little from previous surveys.  Just over 64 per cent of respondents work, or seek work in mineral exploration.  A further 15 per cent work or seek work in metalliferous mining.  Some seven per cent of geoscientists work or seek work in energy resource (coal, natural gas and petroleum) exploration and production.

AIG council member Andrew Waltho said the results of the survey were disappointing for geoscientists.

“Hopefully the survey results reflect a seasonal pause in the gradual recovery of employment opportunities for geoscientists but, equally, the results may show that the recovery being talked about in the Australian resources sector remains fragile,” Waltho said.

“The survey results clearly demonstrate that resource exploration in Australia remained flat through to the end of 2016, consistent with exploration expenditure figures reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics at the end of February 2017.”

Waltho said that improved prices for mineral commodities during 2016 had not translated into increased exploration investment and project pipeline renewal.

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