AusIMM Professional Employment and Remuneration Survey
As the peak body for resources professionals, AusIMM is committed to leading the way for everybody working in mining, ensuring we accurately understand the demands, challenges, and opportunities of our professional workforce.
To inform our policies and strategic agenda, AusIMM conducts the annual Professional Employment and Remuneration Survey (PER Survey) as it continues to provide 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.
AusIMM’s ability to report on an annual basis key themes and trends as they emerge ensures that our advocacy is relevant and timely to all resources professionals, particularly during the last two challenging years.
The data referred to in this report was captured as the impact of COVID-19 continued to disrupt and test the industry, as the sector looked to mitigate against health risks while playing a key role in providing strength to the national economy. The data reflects that despite the general impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resilience of the resources industry to respond to ongoing challenges has kept the sector’s professionals largely immune from the downturn that other industries have had to manage.
Whilst the industry has not been completely immune from issues, with COVID-19 causing FIFO interruptions and border closures that have impacted the sector, this year’s survey reveals a positive outlook for the resources industry as the powerhouse of Australia’s economic recovery.
With AusIMM’s commitment to making our industry one that welcomes and supports all resources professionals, it is positive to see improvements indicated by respondents in the areas of diversity and inclusion compared to 2019. However, there is ongoing work still to be done to build a sector that is harnessing the full range of skills and experience found within the global community.
Stephen Durkin FAusIMM, AusIMM CEO
The 2021 PER Survey data shows that although COVID-19 had an impact on employment and sector operations, the industry has largely recovered or remained stable. The sector continues to show almost full employment, with redundancy rates falling sharply and respondents expressing optimism about the future of employment in the sector.
Working practices have also largely returned to pre-pandemic levels, although resources professionals are clear in their view that remote working, increased automation and the emergence of the ‘smart mine’ are trends that will continue well into the future. The data showed a minor increase from 9.1 per cent to 9.6 per cent in satisfaction with hours, the number of hours and salary growth. As expected, respondents experienced decreases in travel requirements and increases in current and future expected use of technology.
Professionals working across the sector generally rank best practice and the future of the sector as their key policy priorities, with technological advancement, social responsibility, education and the workforce all rating highly. There are also signs of increased awareness regarding diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity, but responses show there is still further work to be done.
Snapshot of results
- The Australian resources sector unemployment rate of 1.6 per cent beat the Australian unemployment rate by over three points.
- 2020-2021 saw the resource sector maintain employment and job opportunities despite states' ongoing lockdowns
- Redundancy rates halved in the year to 2021, demonstrating a consistent five-year trend
- More than 80 per cent of resource professionals surveyed expect more and new types of jobs opportunities in the sector in the next year
- Professional best practice and the future of the sector are the top priority for 60 per cent of resources professionals
- 84 per cent of resource professionals are on base salaries over $90,000 and 60 per cent also have additional bonus components
- 2021 survey data reveals resource sector professionals have largely returned to pre-pandemic work patterns
- Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles in the resources sector
- 44.4 per cent of resource professionals surveyed had pay increases in 2021
- In the last 12 months the number of resources professionals expecting increased job opportunities has grown by 15 per cent
Read the full survey below to get a detailed understanding of this year's results.
About the survey
AusIMM has been conducting regular salary and employment surveys for several years. The Professional Employment and Remuneration Survey (PER Survey) provides a unique and detailed insight into the remuneration, priorities and working experiences of professionals active across the global resources sector. The Survey reaches a network of AusIMM members and professionals extending across more than 110 countries, across all disciplines, and all key demographics within the mining industry’s professional community.
The survey is the largest of its kind undertaken in Australia and as such represents an authoritative picture of the remuneration of professionals in the industry. The survey is constantly evolving, given the increasing variety and roles within the resources industry; the latest data reveals over 150 different professional roles in the sector. The analysis done includes longitudinal data benchmarked against previous years which provides a strong evidence base for understanding the current state of the resources workforce and employment market and changes over time.
AusIMM publish the PER Survey Report each year to ensure industry, government, academia, and the broader global community have access to the comprehensive information and insights garnered through the Survey. Survey findings inform AusIMM’s policies and strategic agenda, allowing us to advocate on industry imperatives, guide the initiatives we deliver with and for members, and are also a valuable and credible source of reference for our partners in industry, government, and academia.
The 2021 AusIMM PER Survey was conducted online during September and October with participation from a generally representative sample. Reach was maximised by distributing the Survey through AusIMM’s sector-wide network, which captures both members and non-members and through channels including social media and direct email. Direct contact with non-members were individuals who had previously expressed an interest in the association’s remuneration reports, conferences, courses, surveys, or campaigns. In total, 852 responses were used for the analyses contained in this report.
Duplicate respondents were screened using a variety of variables collected during the survey in conjunction with IP addresses associated with each response. Where a duplicate was identified the most complete response was retained.
Participants were not required to answer all questions in full, and a range of questions sought an expanded qualitative response or applied only to specific cohorts within the broader resources profession. As a result, some questions have narrower sample size than the broader survey response rate. The sample rate remains broadly representative, with quantitative questions generally exceeding 800 responses and no questions having a response rate lower than 40 (these being for the most narrowly framed qualitative questions). No quantitative questions received fewer than 250 responses.
The strength of the resources sector in 2021 saw unemployment (as indicated by workforce participants) at a low of 1.6 per cent, reflecting almost full employment and an improvement from the slight contraction during the initial stages of the pandemic (Figure 1). Unemployment in the sector is well below the broader Australian workforce, with seasonally adjusted unemployment in October 2021 at 5.2 per cent (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021).
Australian resources sector unemployment rate: 1.6 per cent, beating the Australian unemployment rate by over three points.
Levels reported for female unemployment dropped to 2.8 per cent, down from 4.1 per cent in 2020 and 14.5 per cent in 2016. This demonstrates a remarkable improvement over the last five years. There was also reduction down to 1.4 per cent for the level of male unemployment amongst respondents.
AusIMM analysis shows that since 2015 the resources sector has consistently outperformed the Australian unemployment rate, pointing to the sector’s important role in providing high paying, stable employment. As the industry expands into emerging markets, commodities, and supply chains, AusIMM analysis indicates both continuing demand for existing skilled professionals as well as growing demand for new skillsets.
The rapidly growing opportunities in emerging areas of mining such as critical minerals and automation highlight the shifting requirements, with the variety of operations requiring multiple technical and engineering competencies across the STEM field. With the level of professional disciplines, such as mining engineering, already critically below the level required to meet industry demand there is a dual urgency to maintain current levels of STEM professionals and enhance the pipeline across experience levels to supply the future workforce demands.
Disciplines where unemployment has tracked above the sector-wide average have also shown improvement. Assessing unemployment rates by professional discipline (Figure 2) there has been decline in the unemployment rates in 2020, with project management down to 3.7 per cent, and mining engineering more than halving to a low of 1.3 per cent. A comparable trend for geoscience professionals reflects a similar narrative since 2016, possibly exacerbated by an acute workforce strain amidst restricted national and international travel restrictions over 2020 and 2021.
2020-2021 saw the resource sector-maintain employment and job opportunities despite states' ongoing lockdowns.
The resources sector continues to operate at an effectively full employment rate. The two Australian states most affected by lockdowns, Victoria and NSW, maintained a consistent unemployment rate of 1.9 per cent. Western Australia had a remarkable year with unemployment based on responses at only 1.2 per cent, a consequence of strong iron ore demand and the rise in local job opportunities encouraged by State government policy changes in 2021. Queensland held relatively constant from 2020 with a slight reduction to 2.3 per cent, a significant drop from 11.4 per cent in 2016.
Redundancy in the sector has had a decline to 5.9 per cent in 2021 down from 10.5 per cent in 2020 and below pre-pandemic rates of 7.7 per cent in 2019. This reduction is unsurprising given the restrictions on movement through lockdowns and border closures and the general health and strength of the sector throughout the pandemic.
Redundancy rates halved in the year to 2021, demonstrating a consistent five-year trend.
Sentiment for the future of employment in the sector remains strong, particularly in relation to opportunities over the next twelve months. 83.2 per cent expect to see more job opportunities up from 54.6 per cent in 2020 and 59.9 per cent in 2019. There has likewise been a 10 per cent reduction in the number of professionals forecasting a retraction in overall demand. This reflects the sector’s contributions to Australia’s economic security, and recovery, over the course of 2020 and 2021. The overwhelming message from professionals who participated in the survey is there is a strong feeling of jobs and growth in the Australian resources industry.
More than 80 per cent of resource professionals surveyed expect more and new types of job opportunities in the sector in the next year.
Survey respondents were asked about industry priority areas, with responses emphasising new technology, research and development, health and safety and education as the sector primes itself for the future (Figure 7). There is continuing concern over the industry’s ability to attract and retain the skills required to keep the industry excelling and creating economic, employment and advancement opportunities.
The resources industry is digitising rapidly, with advancements in technology, the collection and use of data, interoperability, machine learning, and AI-facilitated remote operational control. The scale of the resources sector R&D development and machine operation has been described as more complex than NASA mission control.
Professionals also recognise the need to co-operate with adjacent industries, create transitional pathways and investigate how to utilse the skills, knowledge and expertise of the existing workforce. The sector is rapidly competing with other industries, especially ‘big tech’, so attraction and retention is an imperative.
Professional best practice and the future of the sector are the top priority for 60 per cent of resources professionals.
What respondents said: priorities for the sector
'Retention and utilisation of older professionals and their experience.'
'Sustainability – using resources responsibly to ensure future generations access.'
'There are not enough graduates to fill the number of jobs available.'
'Attracting students and number of mining engineer graduates.'
'Look outside the "dig and deal" model - innovation beyond the mines, downstream processing and resource reuse/recycle as the new face of mining in Australia. Don’t leave it entirely to research.'
The resource sector continues to dominate as one of the highest paying employers in Australian statistics. Despite the challenges of the pandemic there were increases in the number of people earning above $180,000 across all age groups
84 per cent of resource professionals are on base salaries over $90,000 and 60 per cent also have additional bonus components.
The sector continues to deliver high paying long-term stable employment, creating extensive opportunities for Australia’s resources professionals. The 2021 salary data revealed the peak in earning for the average professional was between the ages of 40-60 years, with a slightly lower proportion of younger (18-30 years) and older (60+ years) earning more than $180,000. On average across all age groups, only 16 per cent of respondents working full time earned a base salary less than $90,000 annually.
Differences in earnings across age brackets is likely a reflection of seniority. The 2021 AusIMM PERS categorised work seniority into four levels.
Level 1. Graduate professionals who perform tasks of limited scope and complexity. Approximately 2 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 7.7 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 (53.5 per cent).
The majority of AusIMM professionals operate at Levels 3 and 4. Greater seniority, as reflected in higher level appointments, attract greater remuneration (Figure 9). The majority (69.0 per cent) of Level 4 positions attracted earnings more than $180,000.
The 2021 PERS data on the work patterns continues to be driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a significant reduction in professionals categorising their work pattern as a local daily commute, dropping from 48.3 per cent in 2019 to 29.6 per cent in 2020. The 2021 data reveals that this has largely returned to normal level in the resources sector with 48.5 percent recording a local commute as their work pattern.
2021 survey data reveals resource sector professionals have largely returned to pre-pandemic work patterns.
The 2020 working arrangements that shifted during the early stages of the pandemic led to a rapid rise (13 per cent 2019 to 38.7 per cent 2020) in working from home arrangements. This has reduced below pre pandemic levels to 12.6 per cent in 2021, which is in part likely due to the shift in Western Australia’s border arrangements resulting in the rise of in-state hiring.
The mobility of the resources workforce (including fly-in, fly-out and drive-in, drive-out workers) also helps to spread the benefits of strong employment across regions, with people living outside mining regions able to access the employment opportunities generated by the sector.
There has been a rise in the number of professionals living remotely, including in outback and mining towns, from 4.5 per cent in 2020 to 5.4 per cent in 2021. This is consistent with the Productivity Commission’s study on transitioning regional economies and the substantial industrial base that has grown since 2005.
In 2020 approximately 20 per cent of respondents worked in fly in, fly out (FIFO) or drive in, drive out (DIDO) work arrangements and this has had a slight increase to 25.6 per cent in 2021.
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.
For FIFO and DIDO respondents there was overwhelming endorsement for employer support regarding travel arrangement with 72.6 per cent of respondents endorsing their experience as good or above. The majority also reported positively on local amenities with 65.9 per cent rating good or above, the food onsite was five points lower at 60.9 per cent.
In 2020 only one third (33.6 per cent) identified professional development opportunities as good or above and there has been almost no change in 2021 with onsite professional development only rating as good or above with 33.9 per cent of respondents. When further considering the professional development on site only 9.8 per cent awarded a top ranking. This in part can be due to professional development during the pandemic undergoing a significant shift to overcome health and operational risks.
What respondents said: professional development
“Try to support the people who live in remote communities and work on mine sites more.
Assist with ongoing professional development via means available to professionals who are unable or find it difficult to travel to capital cities.”
With increasing options available for professional development, including online courses, masterclasses, and webinars, AusIMM continues to work with the sector to ensure professional development opportunities are both diverse and accessible for all professionals regardless of location.
The 2021 data also highlighted some areas of concern with only 34.6 per cent of respondents rating the healthcare services on site as good or above. There was also a stark decline in the feedback of respondents on childcares services offered onsite, dropping from 22.2 per cent in 2020 to 5.6 per cent in 2021. This may reflect on site control measures to manage health and safety concerns during the pandemic but also shows a significant opportunity to improve support for on-site professionals seeking to balance work and family life, which is critical for both attraction and retention.
What respondents said: FIFO/DIDO role flexibility
“For people working on remote sites in FIFO/DIDO roles there are very few part-time roles available.
This inherently reduces opportunities for people who would prefer to work part-time because of responsibilities at home, health conditions, or lifestyle reasons.
The lack of part time opportunities affects women with young children being able to consider these roles.”
Diversity and inclusion
The strength and continued contributions of the resources sector are contingent on a contemporary, future-focused workforce. Our sector must be inclusive and harness the full breadth of experience found across the communities we serve.
AusIMM is committed to welcoming and advancing the careers of a diverse range of resource professionals. We established the Council for Diversity and Inclusion to guide our initiatives to create equality of opportunity and drive continuous improvement for our association and the broader sector. We collect and report on gender parity, cultural awareness, and industry approaches towards diversity and inclusion through the PER Survey.
The 2021 survey data shows that earnings vary across genders. Of all those who identified as female, a smaller proportion (32.6 per cent) earned over $180,000 compared to the proportion of men who earnt more than $180,000 (52.1 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 over $180,000.
In part, the difference between salary for males and females is likely to reflect that, overall, females tend to be in more junior roles. However, there is some evidence that, within the same professional level, women earn less than men. 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.
Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles in the resources sector.
Responses to the 2021 survey suggest an increased awareness of issues affecting diversity and inclusion in resources. While there has been growth in the share of respondents indicating their workplace is ‘average’ in terms of inclusion, positive ratings across all three categories have fallen sharply and the share of respondents reporting ‘improvement’ has remained more-or-less fixed.
In 2021, 15.2 per cent of respondents indicates the industry was improving and 8.9 per cent indicated their workplace is improving. This rate of improvement is consistent with previous years, although there has been an increase in the proportion of respondents who stated the industry as a whole is not very inclusive (up 7 per cent on 2019 results).
The 2021 survey also collected data on resource professionals’ participation in cultural awareness training in the workplace, with 74.2 per cent indicating they had received such training. Despite this 51.2 per cent of respondents rated their workplaces average or not very inclusive and 61.4 per cent rated the resources industry average or not very inclusive. 32.5 per cent of the industry felt that their workplace was very inclusive, compared to only 16.4 per cent who believed the industry more broadly was very inclusive, indicating a disconnect between the average professional’s experiences within the workplace and their perception of the industry as a whole.
What respondents said: Advancing women in mining
“More female speakers to serve as role models, and to normalise the concept of females in the industry.”
“More promotion of women in mining and promotion of equal pay for the same level of experience.”
“Promote the attitude of equal opportunity from management down to operator level. There is still a lot of misogyny and prejudice at the coal face.”
“Support companies that implement robust policies for harassment. Support companies that organise social events for teams that work together and across teams within organisation.”
“Developing industry discussion and debate about how to achieve diversity and shine the light brighter on successful women and how they achieved their successes in practical terms, juggling families, partners and careers.”
“Organise more cross-discipline platforms. Mining is too siloed still for us to really grasp inclusion and diversity (hence equal opportunity) in a broader sense than inter-disciplinary thinking.”
“Greater involvement of women in science and engineering at schools and universities. We need to fight the closure on mining related subjects at universities.”
“More grass roots STEM in high schools for women.”
“Provide best practice guidelines for inclusivity, especially to get more women to stay in the sector. I believe sufficient women are interested in the sector and are there at a junior level - they just don't stay.”
“Keep spreading the message until it becomes in the norm.”
Given the ongoing global and local impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, AusIMM again sought information on members’ sentiment in response to shifting work practices and economic uncertainty.
There has been a 10.2 per cent decline in the proportion of professionals who are very satisfied with the paid hours they worked in 2021 (now at 36.8 per cent). Satisfaction with hours worked also declined, with the number of employees who were unhappy and wanting more hours almost doubling to 9.6 per cent. There has also been a rise in the number of respondents who seek reduced hours, suggesting a more polarised response in 2021 compared to previous years.
Social distancing has affected employment rates and work hours across all industries. Therefore, it is unsurprising that there was an increase in dissatisfaction after the COVID-19 outbreak, and there has been a continued impact as Australian states have battled snap and extended lockdowns.
Respondents were asked to share their experience on how working pressures had changed in the last twelve months, and considered the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
The 2020 results showed that in the 12 months prior to COVID-19 most respondents had not experienced changes in the number of working hours, days off, salary, responsibility, or pressure to work unpaid overtime. That is not to say these pressures were absent prior to the pandemic. For example, 17.1 per cent of respondents reported pressure to work unpaid overtime (17.1 per cent) and 25.6 had taken on additional unremunerated responsibility. Worth noting, however, is that 31.6 per cent of members reported an increase in salary in the 12 months prior to COVID-19.
In 2021 the data had a much stronger narrative on the strength of the resources sector. 44.4 per cent of respondents had increased salaries, 43.8 per cent had increased responsibilities, and 17.7 per cent had increases to paid working hours. There was also an increase in pressure to work unpaid overtime from 17.1 per cent to 25.4 percent. This may be partly due to ongoing border restrictions in Western Australia and the steady demand for iron ore throughout the period (as was the case in 2020).
Of note, 5.4 per cent of respondents indicated an increase to the number of rostered days off whilst 9.4 per cent reported a decrease in rostered days off, which is consistent with the second half of 2020.
44.4 per cent of resource professionals surveyed had pay increases in 2021.
The survey asked respondents to indicate changes they expected to see to future work practices. 72.9 per cent expected an increase in technology and videoconferencing, with 93.3 per cent of respondents reporting the level will either increase or stay the same. There was a small increase (from 82.7 per cent to 91.6 per cent) of respondents who expect to see a mix of face-to-face and digital conferences and professional development continuing in the future. This reflects AusIMM’s experience of strong market demand for hybrid service delivery.
In 2020, 77.6 per cent of PERS participants predicted a significant decrease in the amount of international work-related trave. In 2021, only 58.4 per cent expected reduced international travel, with 22.5 per cent expecting more. A much larger proportion of respondents expect domestic travel to increase (27.9 per cent) or stay the same (30.8 per cent), although 39.5 per cent expect a decrease in domestic travel. This reflects a clear post-pandemic expectation that technology-facilitated remote work will continue in the resources sector.
The trend also reflects the continuing digital transformation of the resources sector, with respondents continuing to predict increased adoption of automation, artificial intelligence and remote operational practices.
The 2021 survey data provides an optimistic outlook for the sector that has carried Australia through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic and has continued to deliver highly paid jobs across professional disciplines. The 15% rise in industry outlook for more job opportunities from 2020 (54.6 per cent) is a remarkable increase compared to the hardship and decline experienced in other sectors.
In the last 12 months the number of resources professionals expecting increased job opportunities has grown by 15 per cent.
What respondents said: meeting workforce demand
“There needs to more work to encourage school leavers to come into the industry.
There are not enough graduates to fill the number of jobs available.”
What respondents said: community perceptions
“It is vitally important that our industry promotes itself in terms of responsible project development and operation as an absolute necessity to improving the global standard of living for all members of the human race.
The general population lacks understanding of the role our industry plays in improving the world through providing the key resources that are taken for granted in creating the best lifestyle the world has ever known.”
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