18/2/2015 — General
Geoscience jobs continue to fall in Australia
By Ross Louthean
One of the major geosciences bodies in Australia has raised concerning statistics that also impact on professional employment in New Zealand.
The Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG) this week released figures showing that unemployment for geoscientists was continuing to rise.
The degree of the problem has been well shown in news reports showing massive cutbacks in the Pilbara iron ore fields and coal fields of Queensland and New South Wales.
There is also the fact that more than 80 listed junior explorers on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) have “zombie” classifications – insufficient funds to last the next six months without considering exploration.
AIG said its latest survey for the December quarter showed that an uptick in jobs in the previous quarter was short lived.
The survey showed the unemployment rate among 666 respondents in the latest survey was 15.5%, a full 2% higher than the rate for the end of the September quarter. The under-employment rate in the latest survey among self employed geoscientists rose to 16.9% from 15.4% in the previous quarter.
The unemployment rate of 15.5% was the second highest recorded since the AIG started this survey in mid 2009.
“The combined unemployment and underemployment rate of 32.4% was also the second highest recorded by this survey,” the AIG said.
Self-employed geoscientists continued to struggle with more than a third unable to secure more than 10% of their desired workload. Were these self-employed geoscientists to be considered to be essentially unemployed, the overall unemployment rate would be a staggering 21.3% - more than one in every five geoscientists in Australia today.
The latest survey showed 12.2% of the geoscientists lost their jobs in the previous three months. Almost 40% had been unemployed for more than a year.
The survey showed more than 66% of unemployed or under-employed geoscientsits were not confident of returning to full time employment in their chosen field within 12 months, and 6% were seeking alternate employment.
“The increase in unemployment amongst Australia’s geoscientists in the final quarter of 2014 will be seen as very disheartening by many in the profession,” commented AIG president, Wayne Spilsbury.
“The employment downturn, since it peaked at the end of 2013, has shown little sign of improvement whereas the GFC in 2008 to 2009 was a short, sharp event.
“The current, continuing downturn appears to be a product of sustained depressed commodity prices which has dampened equity markets, contributing to a marked decrease in exploration funding that is essential to the sustainability of Australia’s minerals and energy resource industries and Australia’s continued economic prosperity,” Spilsbury added.
Western Australia, which had been the boom State that also was a mecca for geoscientists and other mining professionals and skilled workers from New Zealand, has borne the brunt of the downturn.
Spilsbury said that some promised incentives and initiatives from the Federal and some Australian State governments have failed to stop the rot.
Another peak industry body, the AusIMM, has been raising concerns about the massive loss of jobs for its members, which include geoscientists, mining engineers and metallurgists.