1 in 5 Archaeologists unemployed by end of year

BBC Newsnight on Monday 9th predicted that 1 in 5 archaeologists will be out of work by the end of the year.

Recent rumours suggest that the number of planning applications coming in for medium size developments (2-10) has dropped off dramatically, though the large developments continue as planned.

Whilst this is a ray of light in the current economic gloom, the general malaise in the construction industry means a significant downturn for archaeological units. These companies rely on pre-construction archaeology as their major, and sometimes only, source of income…

Archaeological units make up the major employers in the field. So when large successful units start laying-off 30 people at a time (mentioning no names), this really does spell disaster for the community.

However, I’m sure you’ll all happy to know (well, those of you who can afford membership!) that the IFA has a ‘recession plan’! They are holding a Recession Seminar to help individuals and organisations cope with the ‘changing economic climate’ on Monday 16 February at Museum of Docklands. Free for members… but as we might expect, £30 for non-members!

But for the rest of us peons and shovelbums who live on the miniscule salaries most organisations get away with, and/or who don’t have long term contracts and are on one-month notice periods, the future is looking bleak. If the bottom-level archaeologists are forced to leave the industry, this will have significant implications for the future. In the first case, there will be a reduced number of younger professionals in what is already, in some cases, an industry governed by an increasingly aging minority.

But perhaps more importantly, if construction work does pick up after the recession there will be a much reduced workforce available. Whilst this may cause some discomfort to units, there are advantages. The lack of staff desperate enough to work in the industry and happy to take the minimum-wage should result in a rise in wages, possibly even to an acceptable level! So for those of us who survive the recession, there may be small benefits in store…

I’ll have a go at tracking down further information, but due to suffering from horrible flu it might take a  little bit longer than normal!

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