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News June 9, 2020

Restrictions are easing, but arts and venue workers remain in limbo

Restrictions are easing, but arts and venue workers remain in limbo
Marc Schulte / Pexels

The Australian music industry is slowly – very slowly – easing back.

Venues opening to restricted crowds report that demand for live music remains high, however, the immediate future for arts and venues workers is dim.

A survey of 200 executives from the hospitality and events sectors by The Monday Group found that only 11% plan to start hiring by August.

Some of the other numbers from the report make for even more dire reading. 27% don’t expect to begin hiring until later this year, while 40% say it will be 2021 before they are ready to hire again. Even then, 37% are planning to hire fewer people than they may have otherwise.

Almost half (44%) of event management firms are likely or very likely to employ a greater percentage of temporary or freelance staff after restrictions are eased, but 49% of hotel and hospitality businesses think that possibility unlikely or very unlikely.

The Monday Group’s managing director Jonathan Lamm called the findings “concerning”.

The 200 executives revealed that the pandemic forced up to 90% to reduce headcount and salaries, and 58% admitted that most of the job slashes were in the mid- and junior tiers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed the number of jobs in the sector plummeted by more than 18% since mid-March.

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance chief executive Paul Murphy stated, “Employment in the sectors has shrunk by at least 20% and incomes have dived, and this has been worsened by the tight criteria which have ruled most freelancers and casuals ineligible for JobKeeper.”

He added that if any survival package from the federal government “is limited to subsidies for arts companies and funding for marketing, there will only be limited benefit for the tens of thousands of Australians who work in the sector.”

The federal government has come under criticism for allowing 15,000 arts and creative workers to slip through the cracks for its JobKeeper scheme.

Data published by The Age showed how badly the sector had been hit by COVID-19.

Creative and performing arts companies were paid over $76 million in JobKeeper payments in April, which flowed through to more than 25,000 workers.

The report noted that creative and performing arts make up 0.3% of total employment, but they received nearly 1% of all JobKeeper payments to date.

“There are around 40,000 private sector arts workers in the creative and performing arts, which includes performers as well as administration and venue workers,” it said.

“Of those, 25,370 – or just under two-thirds – received a JobKeeper payment in April.”

“Together with a cash flow boost for companies and not-for-profits, the federal government put $99.6 million of extra support into the sector in April, to help combat the effect of the coronavirus shutdown which made it impossible to generate income from performances.”

The figures point to the federal government’s July review of JobKeeper needing to extend it past the original September cutoff.

Murphy concluded, ”If all the rumoured arts package does is support businesses without providing any extra assistance to arts workers, it will fail to address the issues which have been clearly identified and articulated to the federal government.”


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