The data available through our jobs database would seem to be mostly representative for those sectors of archaeology that were not immediately and directly affected by the collapse of the building trade immediately after the start of the recession – the museum sector, heritage management, teaching and research at universities, and various other archaeology-related jobs that occasionally become available. Also, by focussing not on existing jobs that were lost, but rather on those posts that were offered, our data complements that collected by others by highlighting what happened with the supply of ‘new’ jobs.
And if the news was bad where lost jobs are concerned, the data we collected for ‘new’ jobs being advertised is even worse. Aitchison (2010a, 26) reports for instance that by March 2009, 650 field archaeology jobs had been lost in the UK, which amounts to c. 16% of all field archaeology or c. 10% of all archaeology jobs that had existed in the UK in August 2007. Following a short, weak recovery over the summer, by March 2010, the labour market had slipped again to where it was in March 2009 (Aitchison 2010b, 119). Although no hard evidence is available for Austria and Germany, anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that archaeology jobs were lost at a similar or even worse rates in these both countries at the same time as the UK archaeology labour market shrank.
Interestingly, throughout the period from 2007 to the end of 2009, ‘new’ archaeology jobs outside the fieldwork sector in the UK continued to be advertised at pretty much the same rate as they had in previous years. The annual rate of UK archaeology job adverts continued relatively stable at somewhat above 1500 job adverts per annum throughout much of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Only then, the ‘supply’ of newly advertised jobs started to nosedive: numbers of job adverts were down more than 50% year on year to c. 700 in 2010, and then again by another c. 50% year on year to only slightly more than 350 in 2011, for a total reduction in the number of job adverts per annum of nearly 80% from 2009 to 2011 (fig. 3). For this year, a slight increase, to perhaps 400 or so adverts, can be predicted based on the data collected until 15 September 2012, so the situation seems to be getting better, but not by much – perhaps up 10-15% year on year.
In German language archaeology, the decline started a bit earlier, but follows a very similar pattern: in 2007, there still were c. 150 job adverts published, which is very consistent with the years before since 2004. In 2008, that number came down to c. 125 adverts, then to c. 70 in 2009, and then to as few as 30 for both 2010 and 2011, also a reduction of c. 80% compared to 2007. Much like in the UK, the figures for 2012 are likely to be up a bit, probably by something like 30% compared to 2011.
To put the latter figures a little bit into context, in Austria alone (with about 1/10th of the population of Germany), 1150 Persons were studying ‘traditional’ archaeology degrees in January 2012, with another almost as many in degrees with at least some archaeological elements like Egyptology, Byzantine, and Celtic Studies (Karl 2012). Even if accounting for relatively high dropout rates, more than 3 years average duration for undergraduate degrees, and most students continuing directly into an MA degree, more students currently finish their archaeology degree in Austria than jobs are being advertised in Austria and Germany combined. For every job advert in German language archaeology, there will be something like 10 recent archaeology graduates, not counting anyone who lost their job, or anyone from the previous year’s cohort who didn’t get one, or indeed anyone who did only get a temporary job last year.
Fig. 3: Number of archaeology job adverts published per year, 2007-2012 period.