Research paints bleak picture of renumeration for some creatives in the arts sector

Posted Thursday 25 May 2023

Research paints bleak picture of renumeration for some creatives in the arts sector

Creative professionals are still earning considerably less than New Zealand wage earners.

Research just released shows that New Zealand’s creative professionals’ median income is $37,000, compared to the median of $61,800 for salary and wage earners. Forty four percent of creative professionals supplement their creative income with other work; the median income from creative pursuits alone is $19,500 a year. 

“The research continues to paint a bleak picture of remuneration in some parts of the arts sector and the sustainability of creative careers. Income growth is very low, and it continues to be a struggle for the majority of creative professionals to plan financially and to secure important loans such as mortgages,” says Creative New Zealand CEO Stephen Wainwright.

Creative New Zealand partnered with NZ On Air to undertake the research which was conducted by Kantar Public.

The research shows how difficult operating within the gig economy can be, says NZ On Air’s Chief Executive, Cameron Harland.

“Seventy one percent of practitioners consider themselves part of the gig economy and, of these, four out of five say it’s difficult to predict how much they will earn. However, it is uplifting to see that 80% of creative professionals are committed to their work – so it’s positive for New Zealand’s cultural life to see that most artists intend to still be practicing in five years’ time,” says Harland.

The research shows that female creative professionals earn significantly less than their male peers – $16,500 a year from creative income alone – a 32% disparity. Deaf or disabled artists earn on average $15,000 a year from creative income alone. The median hourly rate for creative professionals is $25.

“It’s not surprising seeing the stats to understand why 68% of creative professionals believe their income is not fair and over half report experiencing burnout in the last year,” says Wainwright.

“Since the first research was conducted in 2019, CNZ has developed a Remuneration Policy, which aims to help practitioners ensure they are treated fairly when forming working relationships. We’re also developing a set of practical tools to support the policy. As the development agency for the arts in New Zealand we are focused on improving the sustainability of creative careers in Aotearoa”, says Wainwright.

The research takes a snapshot of the sector’s overall health and builds upon previous years’ work to map a broader picture of the wellbeing of arts practitioners in New Zealand.

Read the full research paper here

Read NZ On Air's response paper here

Read an infographic summary here