AusIMM’s annual summary report on professional employment in the resources sector suggests a sustained upturn in employment and continued sector confidence
AusIMM is the peak body and trusted voice for all professionals in the resources sector and represents more than 13 000 members working in Australia and internationally.
To inform its policies and strategic agenda, AusIMM conducts an annual Professional Employment and Remuneration Survey (PERS). This survey provides a unique and detailed insight into professional employment in the sector, as well as priorities and perspectives of AusIMM members. Over the next 12 months, AusIMM will strengthen initiatives and advocate for policies that respond to these priorities.
In October 2019, AusIMM invited all members to complete the survey. Responses from a generally representative sample of 2038 professionals provide a clear picture of a sector that is enjoying strong employment and a positive outlook for future growth. While there remains work to be done, a summary of the data depicts a sector that is committed to strengthening its inclusivity and the professional development of its workforce.
This is a summary report of the full survey results. A more detailed analysis of the survey will be made available to members via ausimm.com.
Related content: AusIMM women in mining survey
Have your say and drive better outcomes for women in resources by completing AusIMM’s Women in Mining survey by Friday 31 January.
This data is essential to help us gain an in-depth insight into how AusIMM can continue to support women employed in the sector and discover areas needing critical attention.
Figure 1 depicts sustained improvement in unemployment overall, which suggests that the sector continues to enjoy almost full employment. The marked decrease from over 14 per cent unemployment in 2016 appears to have stabilised. Of note, while men reported significantly greater unemployment during the earlier downturn, gender differences have now reversed. While this slightly raised proportion of women unemployed may raise some concerns, data-related limitations suggest caution in interpretation.
When compared to the Australian unemployment rate, the resources sector has shown some volatility (Figure 2). In 2015, Australia-based members had nearly triple the national unemployment rate. This has reduced over the past four years and remains well below the national average. This is of particular note at a time when overall unemployment in Australia is relatively low. Redundancies experienced in the sector also remained low, raising slightly from five per cent in 2018 to 7.7 per cent in 2019.
Unemployment by professional discipline (Figure 3) suggests that the pattern of sustained low unemployment is consistent across the sector. While geotechnical engineering and environmental science professionals have enjoyed consistently low unemployment rates, other disciplines, particularly geoscience, faced significant unemployment in 2016 and 2017. Since 2018, each discipline has retained a low unemployment rate.
The trend of sustained unemployment was relatively consistent across all Australian regions (Figure 4). For NSW, ACT and Queensland, unemployment is less than two per cent in 2019 with similarly low levels in 2018. Unemployment remains highest in Tasmania and Victoria, as well as South Australia and the Northern Territory.
In alignment with these low unemployment figures, confidence in the resources sector remains high. In 2015, more than 50 per cent of respondents predicted a decrease in career opportunities, and only 17 per cent perceived that sector growth was likely. However, from 2016, we saw a steep rise in confidence reflected in a predicted increase in perceived opportunities and corresponding decline in respondents predicting decreased opportunities (Figure 5). Optimism in the sector continues, though more respondents predict that there will be a continuation of the current situation and slightly fewer predict further growth. This may reflect a realisation across the sector that skill shortages are limiting growth potential.
Twenty-nine percent of respondents rated skill shortage as the key barrier to continued growth in the industry. This reflected the most significant barrier to expansion, surpassing government regulations and ‘red tape’ (21 per cent) as well as barriers associated with capital approval (20 per cent). Interestingly, neither environmental concerns (11 per cent) nor community approval (7.5 per cent) were perceived as extensively limiting sector development.
While skill shortages may hamper industry expansion, they have likely also contributed to significant wage growth over the past 12 months. Almost 50 per cent of respondents reported a salary increase (46.6 per cent) with nearly 70 per cent of respondents (68.9 per cent) earning in excess of $130 000 per year. This supports recent ABS (2018) figures indicating that mining sector employees are the highest paid in Australia.
Salaries are relatively consistent across all ages (Figure 6). A peak in earnings is evident for those aged between 50-60 years and a slightly lower proportion of younger employees (18-30 years) earn more than $180 000. Across all age brackets, fewer than 20 per cent of professionals earn less than $90 000.
Differences in earnings across age brackets is likely to reflect seniority, at least in part. The 2019 PERS categorised work into four levels:
• Graduate professional performing tasks of limited scope and complexity. Approximately 3.3 per cent of respondents fall into this category.
• Intermediate professional performing duties requiring the application of mature professional knowledge under supervision. Level 2 appointments account for 8.7 per cent of industry professionals.
• Senior professional required to perform work involving considerable independence. More than one-third of AusIMM respondents appraise their level of responsibility at Level 3 (35.4 per cent).
• Lead professional usually responsible at a management level, accounting for half of AusIMM professionals (50 per cent).
The majority of AusIMM professionals operate at Levels 3 and 4 (85.4 per cent). As expected, greater seniority, as reflected in higher level appointments, attract greater remuneration (Figure 7). The majority of Level 4 positions attract earnings in excess of $180 000.
The 2019 PERS collected data on the way in which professionals work in terms of their work/home proximity. Almost half of all professionals (48.3 per cent) categorise their work pattern as a local daily commute and a further 13 per cent work from home. Just over one-fifth are in fly in, fly out (FIFO) or drive in, drive out (DIDO) work arrangements and 7.5 per cent live remotely (including in outback and mining towns). These work arrangements can be challenging for both mining organisations and their employees.
In an effort to identify policy initiatives that could respond to these challenges, AusIMM explored the experience of its FIFO and DIDO professionals. While most respondents reported positively on local amenities, almost one quarter (24.7 per cent) identified professional development opportunities as requiring improvement. Improving professional development was recognised as a priority by 44 per cent of all respondents and is a major strategic focus for AusIMM.
‘Twenty-nine percent of respondents rated skill shortage as the key barrier to continued growth in the industry.’
Diversity and inclusion
AusIMM and its members strive to ensure that the resources sector supports equity and diversity. To this end, AusIMM continues to provide detailed information on gender parity.
Earnings vary between men and women, as depicted in Figure 8. Substantially fewer women earn in excess of $180 000 and substantially more earn between $90 000- $180 000.
In part, this is likely to be a reflection of women’s lower seniority (Figure 9). However, there is some evidence that, within the same professional level, women earn less than men.
Figure 10, which depicts the proportion of professionals earning over $180 000 by responsibility level and gender, suggests a discrepancy between remuneration provided to senior men and senior women. Further, senior women (71.6 per cent) are more likely to earn between $90 000- $180 000 when compared to men (55.7 per cent).
Differences in perceived inclusivity also persist with 27.9 per cent of women (compared to 14.1 per cent of men) indicating that they felt their industry was not very inclusive. AusIMM will continue to support initiatives designed to strengthen gender equity and inclusivity. AusIMM is again conducting its Women in Mining Survey in 2020 as part of this commitment. Take the survey now and have your say.