MEAA: COVID-19, govt indifference to Arts killing sector

ABS report finds Arts is haemorrhaging during pandemic, but too many workers remain ineligible for assistance.

Job losses in the arts and recreation sector were down by 27.0% in March / April, an Australian Bureau of Statistics report has found.

But the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance believes that figure is now much higher, as
creative and performance sectors struggle to make ends meet in the absence of JobKeeper eligibility.

Between March 14 and April 18 the industries which lost the most jobs were accommodation and food services (-33.4%) and arts and recreation services (-27.0%). This was against an overall loss of 7.5% of jobs across all sectors.

Wages for employees in arts and recreation also decreased by 17.43% over the same five-week period.

“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?” asked MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy.

“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.

“These dual strains are having a heavy impact on the welfare of workers in the cultural sector. It would be no surprise to find the cultural sector is over-represented in respondents who reported increasing feelings of stress, anxiety and hopelessness.”

A recent survey of more than 1000 MEAA members found 68.3% currently had no work because of COVID-19 restrictions, and 60.9% had no significant income.

Almost one-in-five (18.8%) were unable to access any government income support, while 16.2% were ineligible for JobKeeper but would receive JobSeeker. Another 41% were still waiting to find out about eligibility.

“To prevent regular employees from access to JobKeeper because of Treasury rules and dismissive attitudes towards the cultural sector will reap an awful human toll. The statistics now bear this out,” Murphy said.

“JobKeeper rules must be amended. The Treasurer can do it at the stroke of a pen. Without this action, the nation’s cultural sector will struggle to emerge from what is looking like a winter of massive discontent.”

2 Responses

  1. I work in the arts and have lost my job (for now anyway) due to covid-19. And the company I work for is not eligible for jobkeeper due to being an agency of the government, despite losing just under $2 million in venue hire alone so far.

  2. An issue with arts is striking balance between creative freedom & monetisation/profit for best possible optimal output. There was more creative incentive in the days of physical singles & albums, for example. Music, TV programs & movie streaming resulted in less income & incentive for creativity & more pressure for monetisation & commercialisation. There’s less soul within & appreciation of these media nowadays. MTV’s main channel even ditched music videos altogether for mostly reality drama shows.

    I think public funding for the arts industry can possibly be affected by political culture within the arts community & views of economics, merit & value of arts from bureaucracy or officials. Again, it could come to striking a workable balance.

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