A New Table Comparing 2006 with 1996 and 2001

Following communication with the National Centre for Cultural and Recreation Statistics of the Australian Bureau of Statistics in December 2007, concerning the methodology used in the 2006 Census, the ABS provided comparison data for 1996, 2001 and 2006 from which we have compiled Table 1.1

The ABS assures us that these figures are strictly comparable, and we have found no reason to have any other opinion. The results, however, show a break with the long-term growth trends described in the previous paper in this section, Musicians in the Census. There have been significant declines in the number of professionals whose main occupation in the week before the Census was being a musician. The decline was steepest for singers followed by composers, instrumental musicians (by far the most numerous group), and directors. The far right-hand column of the table shows that the number of musicians and related professionals declined to a level only 3.5% above 1996, and the number of persons whose main job was singer declined to just over 1,000, almost 20% below the 1996 level.

These changes were reflected, with variations, among other arts professionals: actors and dancers, authors and related workers, and visual artists. The number of persons whose main job was acting declined by 40%, dancers and choreographers by 14%, taking both groups to about 1,200 in 2006. The number of authors declined by 19% while book editors increased their number by 40%. The number of painters of artistic works declined by 13%, sculptors by 9%, and potters and ceramic artists by a whopping 55%. Between 1996 and 2006 the number of potters and ceramic artists declined by 70%, from 2,155 to about 650. It is worth noting for further analysis that potters have also had the lowest incomes among almost any professional group. Many readers of this may know former full-time professional potters who have had to take other jobs and relegate their profession to a part-time activity to be squeezed in with a main non-artistic activity.

Table shows a general shift from arts professionals to those with a stronger ‘commercial’ (industry-driven) orientation, whether among the media or in the design field. The latter showed increases between 2001 and 2006 for the largest group, graphic artists (30%), fashion designers (34%), and interior designers (58%). The only group showing a decline among designers and illustrators was illustrators (falling 4%) – the category with the strongest links to the visual arts.

Another relatively strongly industry-driven group, journalists and related workers, showed increases in all the categories identified in the Census.

Another 2006 Census Table

The first statistics to emerge from the August 2006 Census were part of the “alternative view” developed for culture and leisure occupations (part of ABS Catalogue number 2068.0).2 It is available for males and females separately for individual occupations, which for music professionals means composers, music directors, instrumental musicians, singers, and musicians not elsewhere classified.

These groups appeared to be identical with those used in the 2001 Census, though the whole occupational classification was changed from the 1997 ASCO (Australian Standard Classification of Occupations) to the 2005 ANZSCO (Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations). As described in the previous section, we now know that there had been changes in most occupational categories.

The new statistics are available in geographic detail down to individual local areas and postcodes, which is impressive. However, the apparent breaks in the overall long-term trends from previous census years remain for musicians, actors and dancers, visual artists, and authors.

The total group of artistic professionals was split in 2006 into arts professionals and media professionals (the latter expanded to include artistic directors and media producers). An expanded class of designers and illustrators was transferred to another group of professionals termed architects, designers, planners and surveyors. It now includes specific categories of jewellery, web, and multimedia designers, which were previously ‘not further classified’. The detailed comparison of the new ANZSCO group and what would previously have been included is shown in Table

The comparison of the relevant professions between ASCO 1997 and ANZSCO 2005 is given in this reference.4

Further analysis, intended to compare the number of music professionals with other arts and media professionals, for each State and Territory, and between 2001 and 2006, has been suspended awaiting full statistics from the ABS, expected in February 2008. The analysis is shown on a temporary basis here, but will then be integrated into the main paper, ‘musicians in the census’.

Meanwhile, readers are invited to comment on what they think are the main reasons for the declines in the number of professional artists between 2001 and 2006. This is obviously going to be a main concern when we revise Section 1.2. Some comments are reproduced below.


(Transferred when ‘Census 2006′ ceased to have its own separate page)

Dawn Bennett | d.bennett@curtin.edu.au | IP:

Potters are noted as having relegated their artistic activities to part-time work ’squeezed in’ between other non-arts activities, and this may well be the key to the decline in artist numbers across many artforms. The numbers of ‘jobs’ is declining even in the so-called high arts, and increasing numbers of practising artists are turning to other sources of more stable income in order to survive. Few artists consider that they will be able to meet their future financial needs, (as one dancer commented recently, ‘Superannuation? Yes, I heard about that’). The fact is that the majority of artists work in several roles as protean careerists, and meeting personal and professional goals is a very complicated issue. Perhaps more could be done to assist artists to build sustainable careers encompassing a range of different roles, and perhaps the census should recognise that fewer and fewer people in the general workforce work in the traditional models of work. Jan 8, 2:45 PM

Hans | economicstrategies@bigpond.com | economicstrategies@musictrust.com.au

Yes Dawn, but it is still a remarkable reversal of the long-term trend from 1961 to 2001. The decline in potters started earlier than in other art forms, between 1996 and 2001. But the other art forms followed between 2001 and 2006. Other papers in the ‘context’ section of the knowledge base illustrate the multifarious nature of musicians’ work, which is much more than anecdotal evidence. It was also an important topic in Dick Letts and my statistical framework report for the Cultural Ministers’ Council in 2005. But the results of the 2006 Census showing such a decline in number of people whose PRINCIPAL occupation is an art form calls for urgent action, in the first place of an analytic nature to assist in advocacy and policy action. I don’t think the Census can be changed to measure the varied jobs of artists (it has a more general and different role), but the ABS carries out valuable survey work to identify paid and unpaid involvement in music and the other arts, and audiences at cultural venues. Another valuable source is the four surveys of individual artists between 1983 and 2004, headed by David Throsby. I hope to study and coordinate these sources for the knowledge base in February, following the more detailed census statistics.

It’s really ‘all hands to the pump’ to help analyse the issue of artists’ economic circumstances, and I hope others will soon follow suit with analysis and opinions in this knowledge base forum. Meanwhile I very much appreciate the interest you have taken both in trying to encourage others to use the knowledge base as a debating forum, and your personal comments including the above.

Hans Jan 8, 3:33 PM

Dick Letts | letts@musictrust.com.au

Some speculations about possible reasons for the decline in the number of artists.

  1. A decline in subsidies would lead to a decline in the number of people who have an art practice as their main source of income.
  2. Some such artists might move from a census category of art practice as main occupation to art practice as a minor occupation.
  3. When people believe the arts are highly valued, they may state their main occupation as an art practice even though their main source of income is driving a taxi. They want to be know as artists, not taxi drivers. If such people perceive that society or government does not value the arts so highly, they may revert to identifying their main occupation as the occupation from which they get their main income. For the last decade nationally, there has not been strong evidence that the government has valued the arts.
  4. As Hans has observed, there has been a growth in the number of people declaring some more commercial arts occupations as their main employment. Maybe there has been a shift — could some potters have become photographers or designers? Anyway, this could be another aspect of valuing — value placed on marketability rather than artistry.

Jan 8, 4:03 PM


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Last updated: 22 January 2008.


  1. http://www.mca.org.au/images/abs-comparison-1996-2001-2006-080122.pdf↩︎
  2. http://www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/ABSNavigation/prenav/TopicList?newmethod=Place+of+Usual+Residence&newtopic=Occupation&newproductlabel=Occupation+by+Sex+-+2006+ANZSCO+Alternative+View%3A+Culture+and+Leisure+Occupations&submitbutton=Select+Location+%3E&collection=Census&period=2006&areacode=&geography=&method=Place+of+Usual+Residence&productlabel=&producttype=Census+Tables&topic=Occupation&navmapdisplayed=true&javascript=true&breadcrumb=POT&topholder=0&leftholder=0&currentaction=301&action=104&textversion=false↩︎
  3. http://www.mca.org.au/images/pdf/KB/compare-anzsco-and-asco-080122.pdf↩︎
  4. http://www.mca.org.au/images/pdf/KB/asco-vs-anzsco.pdf↩︎

Hans founded his own consulting firm, Economic Strategies Pty Ltd, in 1984, following 25 years with larger organisations. He specialised from the outset in applied cultural economics — one of his first major projects was The Australian Music Industry for the Music Board of the Australia Council (published in 1987), which also marks his first connection with Richard Letts who was the Director of the Music Board in the mid-1980s. Hans first assisted the Music Council of Australia in 2000 and between 2006 and 2008 proposed and developed the Knowledge Base, returning in an active capacity as its editor in 2011. In November 2013 the Knowledge Base was transferred to The Music Trust, with MCA's full cooperation.

Between 2000 and 2010 Hans also authored or co-authored several major domestic and international climate change projects, using scenario planning techniques to develop alternative long-term futures. He has for several years been exploring the similarities between the economics of cultural and ecological change, and their continued lack of political clout which is to a large extent due to conventional GDP data being unable to measure the true value of our cultural and environmental capital. This was announced as a major scenario-planning project for The Music Trust in March 2014 (articles of particular relevance to the project are marked *, below).

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