Employment agencies optimistic about job outlook in Papua New Guinea


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 general employment in 2014, as new ventures come on stream to replace the giant PNG LNG project.

Credit: R D Tuna Canners

Credit: R D Tuna Canners

ExxonMobil employed about 16,000 workers during the construction phase of its PNG LNG project, with two-to-three times that many being employed by service industries. But the number of directly employed personnel at the plant could fall to as low as 600 as the project comes on stream. A fall-off in is consequently inevitable.

Enigma Internaitonal Resources' Mark Turner

Enigma Internaitonal Resources’ Mark Turner

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.’

‘We’re now into the recruitment of personnel related to the production phase of the PNG LNG project.’

New projects

With the PNG LNG construction largely over, recruitment companies are moving on to the new opportunities.

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‘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.

Cadden Crowe's Scott Roberts

Cadden Crowe’s Scott Roberts

Like several recruiters Business Advantage PNG 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.

‘We’ve just screened about 1,500 people for 437 jobs on Manus Island,’ he says. ‘These are local jobs for local people, and there will be a flow-on for expatriates in areas such as security, health and welfare.’


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’.

Air Energi Pacifica's Calum Smith

Air Energi Pacifica’s Calum Smith

‘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 1,000 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.’


Scott Roberts agrees confidence is coming off ‘a high’, but says the mood is relatively optimistic.

However, he cautions people are waiting to see where the income from the LNG project goes to. ‘People are anxious about what the government will do with the money.’


Private sector employment growth in Papua New Guinea,
March 2002 to June 2013

Source: Bank of Papua New Guinea

Industry sector % increase since March 2002
Retail 166%
Wholesale 210%
Manufacturing 199%
Building & construction 207%
Transportation 174%
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries 173%
Financial, business and other services 144%
 Minerals 179%


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