Job prospects for professional geoscientists remain on a downward slide according to Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG) research.
The group has voiced particular concern about the impact that reduced mineral and energy exploration work will have on the sector’s project pipeline.
The unemployment rate amongst Australian geoscientists at the end of 2015 was 18.7 per cent and the under-employment rate was 23.4 per cent, the AIG’s latest quarterly survey results show.
The combined figure of 42.1 per cent was the highest recorded since the AIG surveys commenced in mid-2009.
The AIG said greatest increase in unemployment was observed in Queensland, where unemployment and underemployment rates were more than 15 per cent higher in the December quarter than those observed in September 2015.
AIG president Wayne Spilsbury expressed disappointment but no surprise in the latest survey results.
“It’s profoundly troubling to see so many highly qualified, experienced, committed professionals unable to apply their skills to contributing to Australia’s economic security,” Mr Spilsbury said.
“The situation in mineral and energy resource exploration is particularly troubling as the prolonged downturn in the sector is damaging Australia’s project development pipeline.
“The low levels of geoscientist employment reflect low levels of exploration activity, which means that we are not making discoveries to maintain Australia’s resource inventory – a scenario which now has the potential to create gaps in critical mineral supplies in coming years.
“Discoveries do not turn into mines overnight.
“We’re not exploring now and the industry cannot be switched back on overnight, so we’re facing a real prospect into the latter half of the next decade of reduced development of new projects to support Australia’s economy and standard of living.”
He said the AIG welcomed the Federal Government’s recent Exploration Development Incentive (EDI) program, involving the use of tax deductions to stimulate increased investment in mineral exploration in Australia.
“However, much of these funds will be spent in the long and non-productive process of securing access to land,” he said.
“In some states, it can take a year or more once an exploration licence is granted to gain the necessary regulatory approvals to get boots on the ground for the simplest, non-ground-disturbing reconnaissance exploration.
“Remember, when we talk about a geologist or geophysicist being unemployed in the exploration sector, we’re also talking about three or four other Australians not having an ancillary job.”