New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics provide insight into just how devastating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been on the country’s arts industry.
Jobs in the Arts and Recreation industry were down 27% between 14th March and 18th April, with wages in that period dropping 17.3%.
As The Music acknowledges, the only other industry to have been hit as hard over the past months are Accommodation and Food Services, with jobs decreasing 33.4% and wages down 30.3%.
“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?” commented Paul Murphy, chief executive of Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.
“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.”
Murphy added that in a recent survey of over 1000 MEAA members, 68.3% currently had no work because of COVID-19 restrictions, 16.2% were ineligible for JobKeeper, while nearly one in five (18.8%) were unable to access any government income support whatsoever.
“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,” Mr 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.”
Earlier this week, historical Sydney venue and arts centre Carriageworks announced they had entered into voluntary administration due to financial losses sustained as a result of events being cancelled due to coronavirus.
“The sudden cancellation or postponement of six months of activities due to restrictions on public gatherings has resulted in an irreparable loss of income,” commented a spokesperson at the time.
On Monday, it was revealed that a taskforce had been put together in Victoria to develop policies that could see pubs and venues in the state reopen by late July, with strict operating rules around social distancing. Queensland are reportedly set to begin reopening doors on bars and cafes in June.