Unemployment rates for geoscientists continued to rise in the 2020 March quarter, however fears of a severe impact to the sector from COVID-19 has not yet transpired, according to the Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey.
The survey, which was published by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG), saw geoscientist unemployment rates increase from 7.3 per cent in the 2019 December quarter, to 10 per cent in the March 2020 quarter.
Under-employment for self-employed geoscientists also saw an increase of 5 per cent, from 13.1 per cent in the 2019 December quarter, to 18.1 per cent in the quarter.
Despite a growth in unemployment numbers, Australian Institute of Geoscientists president Andrew Waltho said it’s encouraging to see employers holding on to their geoscientist staff.
“Widespread speculation that the coronavirus pandemic would have a rapid and dramatic impact on geoscientist employment across Australia, where more than 70 per cent of geoscientists work in mineral and energy resource exploration, mining and production, isn’t borne out by the latest survey results,” 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.
“We have not to date seen anything like the dramatic downturn in employment associated with the global financial crisis in 2009.”
However, long-term unemployment remains a growing issue for the country’s geoscientist workforce, with 29 per cent of survey respondents reporting they have been out of work for over a year.
On a state level, the March 2020 survey found all states except Queensland saw a significant increase in under-employment. These figures can vary dramatically between state to state due to the different levels of mineral resource exploration and production.
“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,” Waltho said.
“The potential for more severe impacts on employment remain.
“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.”