Australia’s geoscientists benefitted from a sharp increase in employment opportunities in the final quarter of 2020, according to the latest Australian Institute of Geoscientists  (AIG) geoscientist employment survey.

Unemployment amongst professional geoscientists recommenced a downward trend after improvement in employment prospects stalled throughout the previous three quarters of the year.

AIG President Andrew Waltho welcomed the results. “It’s great to see job prospects for Australian geoscientists ending what had been a tentative 2020, on such a positive note,” he said.

Nationally, between the beginning of October and end of December 2020, geoscientist unemployment fell sharply from 10.6% to 4.5%, the fourth-lowest rate recorded since the survey series commenced in June 2009 and the lowest rate recorded since June 2012, at the height of the resources boom. Under-employment amongst self-employed geoscientists also fell in the final quarter of 2020, from 12.7% to 9.3%.

Employment improved across Australia.  The greatest improvement was evident in Western Australia where unemployment fell from 8.0% to 2.6%.  In Queensland, the unemployment rate fell from 9.4% to 5.3%, while a more modest fall was recorded in New South Wales, from 5.0% to 3.8%. Geoscientists working in Victoria continued to have the worst employment prospects, although unemployment fell from 24% to 15.4% at the end of the quarter. Only a small number of survey contributions were received from South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Mineral exploration delivered the bulk of new employment opportunities, with the proportion of geoscientists engaged in the field increasing from 61.5% to 69.2% during the quarter. Employment in minerals production also increased slightly from 14.6% to 15.3%. The proportion of geoscientists engaged in energy resource exploration and production decreased from 6.3% to 3.1% for the same period. 

The proportions of geoscientists in different forms of employment (full-time, part-time, casual and self-employment) remained essentially unchanged.

The proportion of geoscientists seeking employment outside their profession fell from 9.1% in the third quarter of 2020 to 2.4% in the latest survey results, as geoscientists embraced better employment prospects.

Improved confidence was evident amongst unemployed respondents, with almost half of the unemployed and under-employed respondents feeling confident of returning to work within six months. Long-term unemployment, however, remains a concern with almost half of the unemployed respondents reporting having been without work for more than 12 months.

The vast majority of geoscientists in work at the end of December felt confident of retaining employment for the next 12 months. More than nine in 10 geoscientists in employment reported that their conditions had been maintained or improved over the previous 12 months, since December 2019.