Income support crisis continues for performers and crew
Today’s release of new official data reinforces a sad truth: workers in Australia’s creative and performance sectors are struggling to make ends meet in the absence of JobKeeper eligibility.
The sector was already in crisis; now we are in the realm of catastrophe.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that between March 14 and April 18: “The industries which lost the most jobs continued to be 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.
The ABS’s data builds on the desperate picture presented in April, when it reported that the arts and recreation sector had only 47% of businesses still trading. It is likely the situation has worsened since that report was released.
“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?” said Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance 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.”
Mr Murphy said 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,” 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.”