Independent mining statistics should be used accurately

It is disappointing to see the Mining and Energy Union and some politicians attack the credibility of mining figures produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The ABS issues industry-specific labour data that provide the best available information for employment and wages in mining. These are independent and robust datasets that should be cited and described accurately.

The union’s assertion that the ABS is wrongly classifying labour hire workers in the administrative and support services industry rather than mining is disingenuous.

Respondents to the ABS labour force survey themselves choose which industry they belong to when they fill out the form.

It is also worth noting that employment services – the specific industry group at the centre of the union’s argument – has an entire workforce of around 95,000 people, which accounts for labour hire services to all Australian industries, not just mining. This number has remained steady for the past decade, despite a growing national workforce.[1]

Statistically speaking, only a relatively small number of labour hire workers are likely to ‘misclassify’ themselves as administrative and support services rather than mining.

The Mining and Energy Union and some politicians continue to claim that a decrease in direct permanent employment means an increase in casual employment and therefore a decrease in job security. However, this contention ignores the fact that service contractor workforces in mining are predominantly permanent and generally party to enterprise agreements between employers and unions. It also overlooks the fact that labour hire workers may be permanent.

Since 27 March 2021, a casual conversion entitlement has been enshrined in national employment standards. Employers across all industries are required to offer casuals the option of converting to permanent employment after 12 months, if they have worked a regular pattern of hours for the last 6 months. This entitlement applies to all casual workers irrespective of their agreement or award.

Mining is providing highly skilled, highly paid and secure jobs across Australia. ABS data show:

  • Mining employment has trebled from an average of 83,900 in 2002 to 264,700 in 2021
  • 88 per cent of mining workers are permanent and 96 per cent are employed full time
  • Australian mining pays more on average than any other industry ($144,000 a year)
  • 99 per cent of mining workers earn above-award wages and conditions
  • Average weekly earnings in mining increased 25 per cent between 2010-11 and 2020-21
  • Median weekly earnings of mining employees paid by a labour hire firm are approximately $300 more (or 13 per cent higher) than the median weekly earnings of direct hire mining employees.[2]

It is important to reiterate that the best available data is drawn from representative samples of workers collected and collated by the ABS – the nation’s independent expert statistical agency.

The MCA will continue to cite the ABS when presenting information on the number of people employed in mining, their status (permanent or casual), wages and other key industry characteristics.

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