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AusIMM Professional Employment and Remuneration Survey 2020

· 2200 words, 9 min read

AusIMM’s annual summary report on professional employment in the resources sector suggests strong employment and high confidence despite the global disruption of COVID-19.

AusIMM is the peak body and Trusted Voice for people working in the resources sector, representing a global community of 13,000 members from 110 countries involved in all aspects of mining.

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. AusIMM uses this data to strengthen its initiatives for members and advocate for policies that respond to these priorities.

In October 2020, AusIMM invited all members to complete the survey. Responses from a generally representative sample of 1019 professionals showed that, when compared to 2019 results, there was a small negative impact on current employment and outlook following COVID-19. However, overall, the sector is enjoying strong employment and a positive outlook for future growth.

While there is ongoing work required to strengthen diversity and inclusion in the sector, improvements from 2019 were apparent in the 2020 data and reflect a sector that is committed to increasing inclusion and harnessing the full range of skills and experience found within the global community of mining.

Below we detail key results from the survey across employment and salary, diversity and inclusion, and the impact of COVID-19.


Figure 1 shows that after settling in 2018, unemployment levels have remained low in the mining industry, and the sector continues to enjoy almost full employment. Overall unemployment increased slightly in 2020 (+1.1 per cent compared to 2019) and is likely related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of note, while women (4.2 per cent) reported greater unemployment in 2019 compared to men (2.5 per cent), this gender difference was greatly reduced in 2020.

When compared to the Australian unemployment rate, unemployment of Australia-based respondents in the resources sector showed some volatility in 2016-17 until 2018 results showed a level of stability (Figure 2). Since 2015, the unemployment rate has decreased and remains well below the national average. In addition, the impact of COVID-19 on the Australian unemployment rate was greater (+1.5 per cent) than the increase endured by Australia-based AusIMM members (1.1 per cent). Redundancies experienced in the sector remained lower than those in 2016-17 but raised slightly from 7.7 per cent in 2019 to 10.5 per cent in 2020.

Unemployment by professional discipline (Figure 3) suggests that the pattern of sustained low unemployment continues to be consistent across the sector. While geotechnical engineering professionals have enjoyed consistently low unemployment rates, other disciplines, particularly geoscience, faced significant unemployment in 2016-17. Since 2018, each discipline has retained a comparatively much lower unemployment rate, although an increase in 2020 (again, likely COVID-19 related) was noted, particularly for project management professionals.

Unemployment rates across Australian regions (Figure 4) increased from 2019-20 for Tasmania and Victoria (+1.4 per cent) and Queensland (+2.7 per cent). Unemployment rates for New South Wales and ACT remained the same, while decreases in unemployment were noted for Western Australia (-0.5 per cent) and South Australia and the Northern Territory (-2.6 per cent). Overall, unemployment remains the highest in Tasmania and Victoria (7.3 per cent).

Data regarding members’ perceptions of changes to employment opportunities showed that in 2017 there was a perception of increased future opportunities (Figure 5). While 2020 results were positive compared to 2016 results, respondents were less optimistic than in 2017-19 that there would be increased opportunities over the next 12 months. This result may reflect knowledge of the documented skills shortages that continue to be experienced across the sector and are challenging growth potential.

In addition, the impact of COVID-19, ongoing technological change, and widespread increases in uncertainty are also likely being reflected in the data. Social distancing requirements and unpredictable closures of state and national borders as a result of COVID-19 are likely to have resulted in perceived increases in uncertainty and thus lowered optimism regarding future opportunities.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents rated anti-mining sentiment as the key barrier to continued growth in the industry. This reflected the most significant barrier to expansion, surpassing shortage of skills (35 per cent) as well as barriers associated with lack of interest to enter the industry (35 per cent). Interestingly, neither climate change (7.8 per cent) nor equipment shortage (1.2 per cent) was perceived as extensively limiting sector development.


Only 16.9 per cent of respondents reported a salary increase post the COVID-19 outbreak. However, nearly 70 per cent of respondents are still earning more than $180,000 per year. This supports recent ABS (2020) figures indicating that mining sector employees are the highest paid in Australia.

Salary data for 2020 (Figure 6) showed a peak in earnings between the ages of 40-60, with a slightly lower proportion of younger (18-40 years) and older (60+ years) earning more than $180,000. Averaged across age, fewer than 20 per cent of members earned less than $90,000. 

Differences in earnings across age brackets is likely to reflect seniority, at least in part. The 2020 AusIMM PERS categorised work seniority into four levels.

Level 1. Graduate professionals who perform tasks of limited scope and complexity. Approximately 2.1 per cent of respondents fall into this category.

Level 2. Intermediate professionals who perform duties requiring the application of mature professional knowledge under supervision. Level 2 appointments account for 8.0 per cent of industry professionals.

Level 3. Senior professionals who are required to perform work involving considerable independence. More than one-third of AusIMM respondents appraise their level of responsibility at Level 3 (36.7 per cent).

Level 4. Leaders, who are usually responsible at a management level, accounted for half of AusIMM professionals (53.2 per cent).

The majority of AusIMM professionals operate at Levels 3 and 4 (90 per cent). Greater seniority, as reflected in higher level appointments, attract greater remuneration (Figure 7). The majority (63.1 per cent) of Level 4 positions attracted earnings more than $180,000.

Work patterns

The 2020 PERS collected data on the way professionals work in terms of their work/home proximity (Figure 8). Post the COVID-19 outbreak, there was a big reduction in professionals categorising their work pattern as a local daily commute (from 48.3 per cent in 2019 to 29.6 per cent in 2020) with an associated increase in those working from home (from 13 per cent in 2019 to 38.7 per cent in 2020). Just under one-fifth worked in fly in, fly out (FIFO) or drive in, drive out (DIDO) work arrangements and 4.5 per cent live remotely (including in outback and mining towns).

FIFO and DIDO work arrangements can be challenging for both mining organisations and their employees. To identify policy initiatives that could respond to these challenges, AusIMM explores the experience of its FIFO and DIDO professionals. While most respondents reported positively on local amenities, only one third (33.6 per cent) identified professional development opportunities as good or above. Additionally, less than a quarter (22.2 per cent) rated childcare services as good or above. 

Diversity and inclusion

AusIMM sees that a contemporary, future-focused workforce must be inclusive and harness the full range of skills and experience found within the community.

To inform initiatives that support the ongoing improvement of diversity and inclusion in the sector, AusIMM continues to collect and report on gender parity.

The results from the 2020 survey showed that earnings varied between the genders, as depicted in Figure 9. Of all those who identified as female, a smaller proportion (25.8 per cent) earned over $180,000 compared to the proportion of men who earnt more than $180,000 (48.8 per cent). The greatest proportion of those who ‘preferred not to say’ earnt over $180,000 and the greatest proportion of those who chose to self-describe earnt between $90,000 and $180,000. With the option to self-describe included for the first time in the survey, this is an area of research that will benefit from further investigation before specific conclusions are made.

In part, the difference between salary for males and females is likely to reflect that overall, females hold lower-level roles (Figure 10). However, there is some evidence that, within the same professional level, women earn less than men.

Figure 11, 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.

Differences in perceived career opportunities by gender (Figure 12) were also present, with a higher proportion of females and those who preferred not to give their gender identity, indicating they believed gender was a barrier to career opportunities (37.2 and 40 per cent, respectively). Those who identified as male were the most likely to say that gender was not a barrier to career opportunities (77.1 per cent). 

Differences in perceived inclusivity also persist with 37.2 per cent of women (compared to 14.8 per cent of men) indicating that they felt their industry was not very inclusive.

AusIMM will be again conducting its Women in Mining Survey in 2021, as part of our commitment to a diverse and inclusive sector.

Impact of COVID-19

Given the global and local impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, AusIMM sought information on members’ experiences because of changes to work practices and economic uncertainty.  

Work hours

The introduction of social isolation measures resulted in changes in both employment rates and work hours across all industries. Therefore, it is unsurprising that there was an increase after the COVID-19 outbreak in the percentage of members who were unhappy with their hours and wanted more (average of +8.7 per cent change across all grades; Figure 13), as well as a decrease in the percentage of members who were happy following the outbreak of COVID-19 (average -8.8 per cent).

It was found that post COVID-19 outbreak changes in satisfaction with paid hours was similar across professional levels (Figure 13), although graduates had the largest decrease in the ‘very happy’ category with their hours post-COVID-19 (-15 per cent). Intermediate level workers had the smallest change in the percentage of members were who ‘very happy’ with their hours post-COVID-19 (-2.6 per cent).

Changes to work patterns and pressures

Members were also asked how working pressures had changed in the 12 months prior to COVID-19, as well as how working pressures had changed following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Results showed that in the 12 months prior to COVID-19 most members had not experienced changes in the number of working hours, days off, salary, responsibility, or pressure to work unpaid overtime (Figure 14). However, some members noted that they had experienced increases in work pressure mainly in terms of the pressure to work unpaid overtime (17.1 per cent) and responsibility (25.6 per cent). It was also found that 31.6 per cent of members reported an increase in salary in the 12 months prior to COVID-19.

Comparatively, when asked about changes to work following the outbreak of COVID-19 (Figure 15), almost nine per cent more members reported an increase in pressure to work unpaid overtime (25.5 per cent). The number of members reporting an increase in responsibility remained stable from the 12 months prior to COVID-19 (26.6 per cent), while the number reporting an increase in salary was only 16.9 per cent, a decrease of 15 per cent from the 12 months prior to COVID-19.

Of note was that the data showed that for the months after the COVID-19 outbreak, 10.2 per cent of members reported a decrease in the number of rostered days off, compared to only 4.3 per cent reporting the same for the 12 months prior to COVID-19.

Similarly, it was also found that 19.3 per cent of members reported a decrease in the number of paid working hours in the months post COVID-19, compared to only 8.1 per cent reporting the same for the 12 months prior to COVID-19.

Overall, these results suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in members both working less and experiencing increased stagnation in wages.

Expected changes to work

Members were asked to indicate the changes they expected to see to work practices in a post COVID-19 future (Figure 16).

It was found that most members (90 per cent) expected an increase in technology and videoconferencing, as well as an increase in a mix of face-to-face and digital conferences and professional development (82.7 per cent).

In line with expected increases, participants indicated that they predicted a significant decrease in the amount of international work-related travel (77.6 per cent), face-to-face conferences and professional development (70.5 per cent) and domestic work-related travel (49.8 per cent).

The predicted long-term changes by the members are likely to reflect the ongoing uncertainty regarding state and international border closures, as well as ongoing social distancing requirements. Given that COVID-19 resulted in an increased reliance on technology to conduct business and an expectation to complete work tasks remotely, the data reflects that members predict this trend to continue.


Overall, 2020 data for the AusIMM’s annual summary report on professional employment in the resources sector shows that although COVID-19 had a small negative impact on employment and sector optimism, overall confidence remained high and unemployment levels were lower than that experienced for the nation overall.

Diversity, inclusion, and equity-related data showed progress with the number of leaders earning over $180,000 differing between males and females by only four per cent. However, data showed that those in higher positions were more likely to be male and suggested members perceived gender to be a barrier to career opportunities. These results suggest that although progress is being made, there is still further work to be done.

COVID-19 related data showed negative impacts on satisfaction with hours, the number of hours and salary growth. Additionally, members experienced decreases in travel requirements and increases in current and future expected use of technology.


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