Australia’s cultural and creative economy: a 21st century guide

Arts funding Cultural industries Creative economy Cultural policy Australia

Following four previous in-depth reports exploring effective investment and return in arts, culture and creativity tells us that Australia is ready for a National Arts, Culture and Creativity Plan — a plan that would provide a framework to efficiently address the policy, legislative, regulatory and investment settings that span the cultural and creative industries. This fifth report on the cultural and creative economy explains why making this plan now will unleash opportunities for Australians to participate in and contribute to the economy and society in the 21st century.

By taking a national cultural and creative industries approach, we can:

  • take advantage of existing areas of strength to grow our economy and jobs market;
  • make cultural and creative activities more accessible to all Australians;
  • ensure that Australia’s policy settings and public investment are relevant, targeted and effective in the 21st century and;
  • support creative uses of cultural infrastructure, care for our shared cultural assets and encourage innovation.

A National Arts, Culture and Creativity Plan will also encourage private investment. The absence of an up-to-date public policy approach is unsettling to both the sector — which relies on long-term development of skills and products for its delivery and to fulfil ambitions for excellence — and to other funders, especially philanthropists, who often provide reciprocal and compensatory funding.

Summary of key findings:

Finding 1

In 2016, the total cultural and creative workforce (including embedded creatives working in non-creative industries) was 868,098 people, or 8.1% of the total Australian workforce. Within that, the cultural and creative industries employed 645,303 people, or 6% of the total workforce. Within these industries, the arts and entertainment workforce was 193,600 people (1.8% of total workforce). Within that, the creative and performing arts workforce comprised 33,035 people (0.3% of total workforce).

Finding 2

The cultural and creative economy, including activity in the wide range of cultural and creative industries as well as cultural and creative activity performed in other industries, was estimated at $111.7 billion to the Australian economy in 2016–17 (6.4% of GDP). Of this, the 12 domains in the cultural and creative industries contributed $91 billion.

Finding 3

There is a strong relationship between the success of subsidised and non-subsidised cultural and creative industries. International evidence suggests public and private subsidy of arts, culture and creativity has a positive impact on the success of commercial creative businesses and other businesses. Compared with other industries, the cultural and creative industries also have higher spillover effects into other industries in terms of total output, value-added and employment multipliers.

Finding 4

All 12 domains of cultural and creative activity contribute to Australia’s GDP, even when that contribution is numerically small. The largest contributors were: Design (49.8% of cultural and creative activity, or 2.5% of total GDP); Fashion (16.6% of cultural and creative activity and 0.8% of GDP): and Broadcasting, electronic or digital media, and film (11.3% of cultural and creative activity and 0.6% of GDP)

Finding 5

Cultural and creative employment fuels 21st century economic growth now, and will continue to do so into the future. Demand from international students for formal training in Australia’s cultural and creative industries has steadily increased, indicating that these courses will be pivotal in rebuilding the international education industry post-pandemic.

Finding 6

‘Literature and print media’ is the only cultural and creative domain to have experienced negative Gross Value Added (GVA) growth since the initial ABS analysis of Australian cultural and creative activity in 2008–09. Despite its decline, this domain is still a significant contributor to GDP. 

Finding 7

Digital disruptions are causing significant changes in some cultural and creative industry business models, with consequences for activities that have both private and public value.

Finding 8

Australia’s data collection methods are not keeping pace with the significant changes to the nation’s cultural and creative industries and employment classifications. As a consequence, Australia is missing emerging areas of strength and losing opportunities to strengthen the economy further. For example, there are no detailed analyses of Australia’s cultural and creative trade performance more recent than 2008–09.

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