Recruitment agencies servicing Papua New Guinea say the employment of expatriates has fallen over the past year. However, as our survey of the sector suggests, there is optimism about employment in 2014.
Exxonmobil employed about 17,000 workers during the construction phase of its PNG LNG project, with twoto-three times that many being employed by service providers to the project. But the number of directly employed personnel at the plant could fall to as low as 1000 as the project comes on stream. A drop in employment is thus inevitable.
Mark Turner, Director at Enigma International Resourcing, quantifies the fall-off in expatriate employment at 11%, but says the PNG LNG plant is not the sole reason for the fall.
‘Secondly, 2013 has been a disappointing year for the price of gold seeing a drop of nearly 30 per cent, before a recent rally, and being one of PNG’S core mineral resources this has had a major impact on a number of projects and hence employment with many resources companies,’ he observes.
‘Finally, 2013 was a poor year for commodity prices in PNG, impacting their key markets of coffee, palm oil, subsistence and cash crops.’
With the PNG LNG construction largely completed, recruitment companies are moving on to the new opportunities.
‘We’re now into the recruitment of personnel related to the production phase of the PNG LNG project,’ says Calum Smith, Regional Manager, Air Energi Pacifica Ltd, which specialises in recruiting for the oil and gas industry.
Like several recruiters Business Advantage spoke to for this article, Scott Roberts, Managing Principal of Brisbane-based Cadden Crowe, predicts other projects and ventures are just waiting around the corner.
They include the Lae Highway construction, the road linking the LNG
provinces to the capital, Port Moresby, and the Manus Island detention centres.
There appears to be two reasons for the continuing strong employment trend: confidence in the O’neill Government, and a rise in living standards as a result of the PNG LNG project’s impact on the economy.
Enigma’s Mark Turner says future planned resources projects will create jobs in engineering, construction, logistics, hospitality and transport sectors.
’In general, our clients in PNG are very positive about the future of the region,’ he says. ‘Perhaps the phrase to use would be “quietly confident”.’
‘Enigma continues to work with commercial PNG companies looking for their expats to make a long term commitment to PNG, with most employed on a residential status rather than FIFO [fly in, fly out],’ says Turner.
‘Our clients are looking for managers who’ll not only make a positive contribution to the company but also, through training and developing the people they manage, to help develop PNG economically, socially, and culturally.’
Smith says Air Energi Pacifica processed about 1000 work permits and visas last year. ‘It may increase incrementally but we don’t see it dropping, which is a good indication of market activity.’