|Creative Australia: the Arts and Culture in Australian Work and Leisure
|Throsby, C. D. (2008). Creative Australia: The arts and culture in Australian work and leisure. Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.
|Definitive , Open Access
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|About the Data
|The essay is an analysis on the 2006 Census, regarding 156,000 workers in the creative industry in Australia
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At least three distinct aspects can be identified and each raises a series of questions as to the role of creativity in contemporary Australian life.
- Creative work: Significant numbers of people work in jobs that involve the exercise of creative skills. Is it possible to identify a creative workforce and to assess its contribution to the Australian economy? And are these workers employed in sectors of the economy that could be thought of as the creative industries?
- Creative class: A lot of attention has been focused recently on the proposition that creative people tend to cluster in particular urban environments, stimulating economic growth and social interaction. Such people have been referred to as a ‘creative class’. Does this concept have any relevance to cities in Australia? And can we describe any of the State or Territory capitals as a ‘creative city’?
- Creative participation: Australians spend their leisure time in a variety of ways, many of which could be referred to as creative. Active involvement in the arts, through painting, singing, playing a musical instrument, writing, dancing and so on all involve the development and application of creative skills. Moreover, participation in the arts as a consumer—visiting art galleries, reading novels, going to the theatre—all involve a form of creative engagement. How important are such activities in Australian life today?
This paper addresses all three of these aspects of creativity in Australian society at the present time. The central proposition to be explored is that the somewhat vague idea of Creative Australia can indeed be given conceptual and empirical substance, thanks particularly to the rich sources of data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Quite a lot is already known about many statistical aspects of the arts and culture in Australia as a result of the longstanding efforts of the Statistics Working Group of the Cultural Ministers’ Council and the dedicated work of the National Centre for Culture and Recreation Statistics of the ABS located in Adelaide. But in addition to these sources, access to the Census results provides a unique opportunity to shed light on aspects of our topic that can only be effectively studied using data collected under the rigorous methodology and comprehensive coverage of the Australian Census
Main Results of the Study
- In looking at the characteristics of the creative workforce in Australia, we can ask whether the numbers of creative workers have grown over the last ten years. Comparative data from the 1996, 2001 and 2006 Censuses can be used to examine changes over this period. These data indicate that the size of the creative workforce as defined above grew by almost 40 per cent in the period 1996–2006, a compound growth rate of about 3 per cent per annum. The growth was particularly spurred by increases in numbers in the design professions, which grew at an annual rate of about 6 per cent. The growth in the creative workforce is reflective of structural changes that have been occurring in the economy in recent years, as traditional manufacturing and service industries gradually give way to information and knowledge-based industries in the socalled new economy. Technological changes in communications and information processing have contributed significantly to these shifts, and the consequences can be observed in employment levels. For example, the increase in numbers in the design professions noted above can be contrasted with the decline in more traditional areas such as printing; the numbers of printing tradespeople have fallen by 25 per cent over the last decade.
- In regard to the importance of creativity in economic life, the author has noted the growing interest in the world at large in the emerging concept of the creative economy, centred on the creative or cultural industries. Australia has experienced somewhat the same patterns of growth in its creative sector as have other countries, when observed in terms of contribution to GDP or to employment. To some extent this has happened without significant policy intervention, at least at the Federal level; the grand 1990s vision of Creative Nation was not pursued by the Commonwealth Government after 1996, and initiatives to promote cultural industry development over the last decade have mainly arisen at State level, as a component of urban and regional policy—in particular the rhetoric of ‘creative cities’ has been enthusiastically espoused around the country, and this shows no signs of abating. Thus although Australia may not unequivocally be described as a creative economy at the present time, there are certainly elements in the system which are pointing in that direction. But a stronger policy involvement, especially at the Federal level, is likely to be needed in the future if Australia is to maintain or enhance its established and emerging strengths in the development of creative skills across the economy at large.
- The core components of the country’s cultural sector—the creative artists, the performing companies, the galleries, museums and libraries, the heritage sites, and the public broadcasting system—are all well-established. Despite periodic fluctuations across the political cycle, bipartisan support for public funding provided for cultural purposes by Federal, State and local governments remains reasonably stable.51 Nevertheless the per capita levels of such funding are by no means generous in comparison with other countries of comparable wealth.
- This project provides a vivid illustration of the value of the Census in shedding light on aspects of contemporary Australian society. Census data, of course, have the enormous advantage of comprehensiveness and accuracy, avoiding the problems of sampling bias and difficulties of statistical inference that characterise the use of data derived from surveys. In the present project the identification of the creative workforce has been a central task, made possible by the fact that the Census provides labour market data to a high degree of occupational specificity, together with industry definitions that enable the clear delineation of the cultural sector of the economy. In addition, the ability to trace locational aspects to the finest level of disaggregation has allowed the testing of hypotheses concerning the existence of so-called creative cities in various parts of the country. Future Censuses are likely to be even more useful in their application to analysis of the cultural sector if the revised framework for cultural statistics currently being developed at an international level is finally agreed upon and adopted in Australia.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
- At the 2020 Ideas Summit mentioned in the Introduction to this paper, a major theme pursued by the Creative Australia group focused on the centrality of creativity to Australian society and the Australian economy. The group put forward a number of policy directions for education, for funding, for Indigenous art, for the creative industries and for international relations, to name only a few. If these sorts of ideas are taken up, not just by governments but more widely across the community, the concept of Creative Australia is likely to grow in strength and recognition in the coming years.
Coverage of Study
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