Accelerate: Reframing culture’s role in productivity 

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With Australia’s measured productivity growing at its lowest rate in 60 years, A New Approach (ANA) has boldly asked ‘Can arts, culture and creativity make a contribution towards solving Australia’s productivity problem?’

The answer to this question is ‘yes’. Arts, culture and creativity can contribute to solving Australia’s productivity problem through both broad-based cultural and creative engagement by the Australian population and within the organisations, businesses and people focused on cultural and creative activities.

This report analyses international and Australian evidence to understand the contribution of culture and creativity to productivity and demonstrate it can be enhanced through integrated, innovative policy design.

Despite productivity commonly being linked with ideas of creativity and innovation, limited explicit research attention has been paid to productivity benefits of creative and cultural participation and expression. — Accelerate: Reframing culture’s role in productivity

Summary of findings 

Finding 1

Positive examples exist of cultural and creative engagement supporting the determinants of Australia’s future productivity, including our ‘adaptable workforce’, ‘dynamic business environment’ and ‘data, digital technology and diffusion’. There is also evidence of existing cross-sectoral initiatives in response to climate change, ageing population and healthcare.

Finding 2

Australia’s cultural and creative industries contribute to productivity growth by inventing, introducing and embedding new and improved products in the economy. Prominent examples exist in fashion, technology and music. ‘Skills’, ‘industry associations’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘place’ are identified as channels for diffusing innovation in Australia’s cultural and creative industries.

Finding 3

Digital infrastructure, the productivity of the next generation (human capital) and regulatory settings promoting market openness influence Australia’s competitive position in the future trade of cultural and creative services.

Finding 4

Artificial intelligence and platform work are productivity tools in the cultural and creative industries, but the ‘net impact’ of these tools on all employment remains ‘ambiguous’.

Finding 5

Australia’s five-year productivity inquiry does not measure productivity in the cultural and creative industries. The inquiry’s findings on Australia’s broader ‘non-market sector’ (schools, hospitals, childcare and defence) are relevant to parts of the cultural and creative industries.

Summary of opportunities 

These opportunities seek implementation through the architecture of National Cabinet.

Opportunity 1

Harness the proven benefits of cultural and creative engagement and strengthen the public investment logic for culture and creative activities. Australia’s National Cabinet and relevant ministerial councils across portfolios should consider

  • cultural and creative engagement to build an adaptable workforce; harness data, digital technology and diffusion; and create a more dynamic economy
  • cultural and creative initiatives that tackle productivity headwinds and specific challenges (climate change, ageing population and healthcare costs)

Opportunity 2

Consider arts, culture and creativity when developing productivity policy and innovation, trade and employment initiatives. This will require coordination of Australia’s three levels of government and the following:

  • identification of innovation diffusion channels in the cultural and creative industries (e.g. peak bodies, industry groups, regulatory organisations and code reviewers; see Opportunity 3)
  • identification of productive investment needs to support the cultural and creative services trade (see Opportunity 4)
  • consultation with platform workers of the cultural and creative industries on any proposed reforms to workplace entitlements and protections, including those relating to safety

Opportunity 3

Strengthen the diffusion of innovation within and from the cultural and creative industries. An early step for progressing this opportunity within the architecture of Australia’s National Cabinet is to make the meeting of Cultural Ministers a Ministerial Council that reports annually to National Cabinet.

Opportunity 4

Bolster Australia’s competitive position in the trade of cultural and creative services by identifying productive investments in human capital and digital infrastructure alongside regulatory settings supporting global trade and investment flows.

Explore investment options ‘where the private sector is unwilling or unable to invest’ including in

  • skills that combine technical mastery, broad capabilities and adaptability
  • cost-effective provision of digital infrastructure in regional Australia
  • work-from-home infrastructure

Two existing groups for exploring such investments are the Skills & Workforce Ministerial Council and the Council on Federal Financial Relations under Australia’s National Cabinet.

Opportunity 5

To foster productivity gains, providers of free-of-charge (or well-below-cost) cultural and creative services (such as government-funded or government-operated cultural institutions) should consider

  • adopting ‘flexible’, ‘blended’ and ‘shared’ approaches to financing
  • using and reporting benchmark results
  • making data-led improvements in the quality and variety of goods and services

Suggested Citation

Fielding, Kate; Vivian, Angela; Rossi, Sari, November 2023. “Accelerate: Reframing culture’s role in productivity.” Insight report no. 2023–03. Produced by A New Approach (ANA). Canberra, Australia.

Report Design

Swell Design Group (@swelldesigngroup)


ANA acknowledges the cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia and their continuing cultural and creative practices in this land.

A New Approach (ANA) produced this report. CEO Kate Fielding provided the overall direction; Director of Research Dr Angela Vivian led authorship; and Researcher Dr Sari Rossi led data analysis.

Saul Eslake: Principal, Corinna Economic Advisory and Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Tasmania and Ben Au provided expert advice on early drafts of this report. However, any errors are our own. If you notice any, please get in touch.

ANA thanks all the people who generously reviewed this paper for their time and feedback, including members of ANA’s Board and Reference Group. The opinions in this Insight Report do not necessarily represent the views of ANA’s funding partners, the individual members involved in governance or advisory groups or others who have provided input.

© A New Approach. This work is copyright. All material published or otherwise created by A New Approach think tank is licenced under a Creative Commons – Attribution – Non-Commercial 4.0 International Licence.

This paper is the 11th in ANA’s Insight series. Our Insight Reports provide a deep dive into research and analysis of a particular arts and cultural policy topic or other area of interest.

New Approach acknowledges that it meets, works and travels on the lands of First Nations peoples. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and to all First Nations peoples.