An analysis of professional employment in the minerals sector
In June 2015 the AusIMM invited all members to complete its annual professional employment survey. There were 2266 respondents to this year’s survey, representing 26 per cent of those invited. The survey aims to provide an insight into the current state of the minerals professional employment market, as well as the future outlook.
The 2015 survey summary results show:
- The unemployment rate is 16.2 per cent for minerals professionals based in Australia (up from 12.2 per cent in 2014). Globally the unemployment rate is 14.9 per cent.
- 16 per cent of the workforce experienced voluntary or forced redundancy in the last 12 months.
- 55 per cent have been unemployed for more than six months (30 per cent for more than 12 months).
- The mining engineering profession has experienced the largest increase in the number of unemployed professionals.
- 37 per cent of professionals have experienced pressure to work additional and unpaid overtime.
Global minerals and mining sector unemployment has risen steadily since 2012, with a significant jump in the Australian unemployment rate from 12.2 per cent in 2014 to 16.2 per cent in 2015 (Figure 1). The 16.2 per cent unemployment amongst minerals professionals in Australia is nearly three times the national Australian trend rate of 6.1 per cent recorded in July 2015 (ABS Cat 6202.0).
The rise in unemployment is seen across all minerals professionals, regardless of commodity or discipline (Figure 2 and Figure 3). Iron ore professionals are experiencing the highest levels of unemployment and have also seen the biggest year on year rise; unemployment in this sector nearly doubled from 11.9 per cent in 2014 to 23.2 per cent in 2015.
Tasmania and Victoria (19.6 per cent), WA (18.4 per cent) and NSW and ACT (17.3 per cent) have the highest levels of unemployment in Australia (Figure 4). SA and NT recorded a fall in unemployment from 16.3 per cent last year to 13.5 per cent. Unemployment in New Zealand has declined from 6.3 per cent to 5.1 per cent.
Unemployment by gender
The unemployment rate of men (15.4 per cent) is significantly greater than women (11.4 per cent). This becomes more pronounced when analysing just Australia, where the figures are 17 per cent for men and 11.4 per cent for women. This is a significant change from previous years where gender unemployment was similar (Figure 5). Unemployed women, regardless of their job-search focus, have indicated that they are more inclined to accept a job outside the industry.
There is a high level of churn in the minerals professionals workforce, with 18.3 per cent of the workforce having changed employers over the past 12 months. Approximately 50 per cent of these movements were motivated by redundancies. Overall, 16.4 per cent of the workforce experienced a redundancy in the previous 12 months; more than 80 per cent of these redundancies were forced. One in six professionals who underwent a forced redundancy were rehired by the same employer. Approximately three-quarters of these individuals indicated at least one of the following: a decrease in salary or rostered days off, or an increase in working hours.
Nearly 30 per cent of those unemployed have been looking for work for more than 12 months. This group has spent the entire year preceding the 2015 professional employment survey actively searching for work. Overall, this group is the most amenable to accepting non-preferred conditions such as lower salary or a non-preferred location, and is most likely to accept a role outside the industry.
A second group are those unemployed who have experienced a forced redundancy in the previous 12 months and have been unable to find work. This group constitutes five per cent of the total workforce and one third of all unemployed. Within this group, nearly one in five began the year unemployed, managed to secure a role, and was subsequently made redundant after a few months.
Students who entered the workforce during the past 12 months are significantly overrepresented in the unemployment figures – with 35 per cent unemployed. While this is a small group (1.5 per cent of the workforce) 20 per cent of the unemployed in this group have indicated they are focusing their job search outside the minerals and mining sector, and a further 50 per cent have indicated they would accept a role outside the sector.
Unemployment with respect to age
The unemployment rate of members increases with age (Figure 6). There is also indication that younger professionals are more likely to leave the sector. The highest levels of employment outside the sector are seen in the 20-29 age bracket. In addition, 16 per cent of unemployed respondents under 45 reported that they are focusing their job search on jobs outside the minerals sector, compared to nine per cent of respondents over 45.
Respondents were asked to indicate whether they had experienced an increase, decrease or no change over the past year on a number of measures including professional development and working conditions (eg level of responsibility) (Figure 8).
Salary and rostered days off have been reported by the majority of members to have decreased, while working hours and responsibility have significantly increased. This indicates that minerals professionals are working longer hours, more days, and taking on greater responsibility for less pay and support. Thirty-seven per cent of survey respondents indicated they felt pressure or expectation to work unpaid overtime or extra hours.
FIFO members have reported an overall decrease in general on-site amenities, a decrease in the quality and variety of food provided on-site, and a decrease in support for their commute between home and site (Figure 9).
Personal and industry outlooks
Respondents were asked to share their personal career expectations and then share their expectations of the industry as a whole over the next 12 months.
Only 25.9 per cent of respondents expect to have increased career opportunities in the next 12 months. More than 34 per cent expect no change while 40 per cent expect further decreased career opportunities (Figure 10).
A key observation here is that those who have indicated they see no change in the industry are, given the current downturn, indicating that they expect the industry to remain depressed.
Over 80 per cent of respondents see the depressed state of the industry remaining unchanged or worsening during the next 12 months (Figure 11).
Figure 12 reveals consistently negative views across all demographics on the lack of opportunities likely for the coming 12 months.
Overall, students are pessimistic about their employment prospects post-graduation (Figure 13). Final year students are far more pessimistic about their job search prospects, with only 16 per cent of final year students indicating they were confident about finding work when they graduate. Nearly 40 per cent of students have gained some practical industry experience or placement (Figure 14).
Students are keeping their options open, with 64 per cent reporting that they are also looking for work in other industries.
Sixty-eight per cent of students would be interested in doing long-term unpaid industry placements, and 88 per cent are willing to do short-term unpaid placements (Figure 15).
This article is part of the Bulletin’s ongoing conversation surrounding the AusIMM’s 2015 Professional Employment Survey.