Gender pay gap in Australian arts almost double that in other industries, research finds

<span>Photograph: Eva Carollo Photography/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Eva Carollo Photography/Getty Images

The gender pay gap for women working in Australian arts industries is almost double the size of the pay gap in the overall workforce, research commissioned by the Australia Council has found.

A survey of professionals across the performing and visual arts found overall incomes for women were 25% less than their male counterparts. When cultural factors such as English as a second language were taken into account, that delivered to NESB artists a “triple income penalty”, increasing the pay gap even further – but only among female practitioners. Having a first language other than English did not appear to affect male artists’ earnings at all.

Female artists with a first language other than English earned 47% less than male artists with a first language other than English, and 29% less than female artists with English as a first language.

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The data of more than 800 Australian artists was collected and analysed by academics at Macquarie University’s department of economics in 2020.

Building on previous studies, the team of Prof David Throsby, Katya Petetskaya and Sunni Y Shin took cultural factors into account and analysed gender pay gap data in remote Indigenous communities for the first time.

Surprisingly, while research found First Nations artists in remote communities earned less than other artists overall, there appeared to be no noticeable pay gap between male and female First Nations artists working in remote communities.

The report hypothesised that the social structures and cultural norms within which First Nations artists in remote communities live and work “reflect the long traditions of economic and social organisation” that have evolved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society since before the colonial period.

“As such, the roles of men and women can be described as they have been in the past, namely distinctive but neither superior nor inferior. In this context, women occupy a strong and respected position.”

Georgie McClean, the Australia Council’s executive director of strategic development and partnerships, said the research also appeared to show that female artists spent on average longer hours working in their creative practice than male artists, despite earning significantly less.

“These are systemic issues,” said McClean in a written statement accompanying the report.

“It is not that women’s creative work, including that which draws on a range of cultural connections, is in any way less valuable.

“We encourage organisations to draw from the insights outlined in this report to ensure that all our creative talents are valued and to inform strategies to ensure fair remuneration for female artists across all demographics.”