Geoscientists’ employment rate continues to plummet

Employment opportunities for geoscientists in Australia have continued to drop during the first quarter of 2016.

In the latest survey from the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG), the combined unemployed and underemployed rate of geoscientists was 42.9 per cent at the end March 2016, an increase from 42.1 per cent at the end of December 2015.

The September 2015 quarter had a combined unemployment and underemployment rate of 36.7 per cent.

This has been driven by weakness in the mining industry.

The March 2016 results have broken previous ‘worst’ records, indicating the lowest employment conditions for the profession since the survey began in 2009. They found geoscientist employment has been in continuous decline since September 2011, and has been at Global Financial Crisis levels or worse since September 2013.

The proportion of full time roles fell from 88 per cent in December 2015 to 81 per cent in the March 2016 survey; with the proportion of respondents describing themselves as self-employed increasing to almost 15 per cent.

Queensland had the highest combined rate of employment and underemployment (more than 45 per cent), followed by NSW and the ACT. This is in contrast to the September 2015 quarter with Victoria the worst hit, followed by NSW and QLD.

Nearly half of Australia’s underemployed and unemployed geoscientists (49 per cent) have not worked for more than 12 months, an increase of five per cent since December 2015. More than 67 per cent were not confident of getting employment in the next 12 months.

The rate of unemployment and underemployment is affecting geoscientists at all experience levels, with the rate increasing to almost 35 per cent for those with more than 30 years of experience. This has caused concern for the industry as it highlights experienced professionals in the field are unable to provide mentoring and professional development to younger colleagues.

It also emphasises the “boom and bust” nature of the resources industry which affects productivity due to due to the loss of corporate knowledge and repetition of previous work, particularly in exploration and discovery of new materials and energy resources.

AIG President Wayne Spilsbury was disappointed with the results.

“Australian geoscience is entering its third year of extraordinarily difficult employment conditions for a group of educated, highly trained and experienced scientists,” he said.

“When we think of geoscience in Australia, it is logical to immediately envisage professionals working in exploration and mining and forget that the skills developed and used in those aspects of professional practice are just as relevant to many other fields such as effective land management, environmental assessment, monitoring and remediation, and the management of groundwater resources that are so important to the future of large areas of Australia.”

He added the minerals and energy resources industries are among Australia’s most productive generators of wealth, with each exploration job creating an additional three or four jobs in the broader community.

“If there is light appearing at the end of the tunnel, then now is the best time to act to catalyse investment in exploration at State and Federal levels to take full-advantage of an emerging opportunity.”

“We need action to make this a reality.”

However, early exploration shots are on the horizon, with BHP announcing a renewed focus on exploration, and both state and federal government providing more than $100m in exploration incentive funding.

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