One in four arts workers have lost their job due to COVID-19, data finds

7.5 per cent of all jobs have been lost

Newly released figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics have found more than a quarter of all workers in the arts, hospitality and recreation sectors have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Previously, the ABS found that during the period between March 18 and April 4 — the three weeks after Australia recorded its 100th coronavirus case — 18.7 per cent of arts jobs and 25.6 per cent of hospitality jobs were lost.

Now, the bureau has broadened the scope, examining the five-week period between March 14 and April 18. Across the board, payroll data has shown total employee jobs decreased by 7.5 per cent and total wages paid by employers dropped by 8.2 per cent. Similarly to the three-week period, this decline in jobs wasn’t proportional across all industries.


“The industries which lost the most jobs continued to be accommodation and food services (-33.4 per cent) and arts and recreation services (-27.0 per cent),” said ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis.

Last month, a report published by the Grattan Institute predicted half of all workers in the arts and recreation industry would lose their jobs.

In the accommodation and food services sector, jobs held by young people or the elderly decreased the most. This finding follows predictions put forward by the Australian Greens that Australians entering the workforce this year will face a six per cent mean reduction in their salary for the next decade due to an economic phenomenon known as ‘scarring’.

“The new data shows that jobs in Accommodation and food services worked by people aged 20-29 and people over 70 decreased the most (-40.8 per cent and -43.7 per cent),” Jarvis said.

The Greens also claim that half of the million casual workers currently ineligible for the government’s JobKeeper payment scheme are under the age of 24.

In response to the figures, Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance chief executive Paul Murphy said the government has not done enough to protect arts workers, many of whom are freelancers or sole traders.


“How much more information does the federal government need to act to give freelance employees (those who work regularly but with multiple employers) access to critical income support?” Murphy said in a statement.

“It is clear that the Minister for the Arts statement in early April that JobKeeper would ‘keep the spotlights shining in the arts sector’ was an evidence-free statement of hope rather than fact. The money isn’t there and our sector is being crushed by the twin forces of COVID-19 and government indifference.”

The release of the new ABS figures coincides with the news that prominent Sydney contemporary arts organisation Carriageworks entered voluntary administration, citing an “irreparable loss of income”.