New report predicts more than half of arts workers will lose their jobs during pandemic

"Australia is facing either the worst or one of the worst economic downturns in its history"

Newly released research from the Grattan Institute predicts up to a quarter of Australian workers, including the majority of those in the arts industry, will lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Published online yesterday (April 19), the paper estimates just over 50 per cent of workers in the arts and recreation sector will lose employment during the pandemic. The arts are second only to the hospitality industry, which requires plenty of face-to-face interaction and close proximity to people in order to fully operate. Read the full report here.

The research compares its predictions to Australian Bureau of Statistics data to gauge its plausibility. The authors do mention, however, that the estimates should be “approximate and indicative” because “the Australian economy has never previously experienced the
kind of shutdown and labour force shock resulting from COVID-19”.


In a statement, lead author Brendan Coates said “recovery from periods of high unemployment is rarely fast”.

“If our estimates are even close to accurate, Australia is facing either the worst or one of the worst economic downturns in its history,” he said.

READ MORE: “I don’t know what will survive”: Australian record stores grapple with coronavirus

The Grattan Institute’s report echoes similarly concerning figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics earlier this month. In the week commencing March 30, only 47 per cent of businesses in the arts and recreation industry reported that they were operating, according to the bureau.

Earlier this month, the Federal Government committed $27million in relief funding to the arts sector, which included $10million to music mental health charity Support Act. However, this figure was a fraction of some of the stimulus packages proposed by industry bodies, such as a $750million package proposed by the Australian Music Industry Network and Australian Festivals Association. Many workers in the arts sector are also ineligible for the $130billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.