Page title


1. Executive Summary

The WA creative industries contributed an estimated $3.3 billion in Industry Value Add (IVA) to the WA economy in 2018-19 and generated an estimated $175.9 million in service exports. The WA creative industries employ approximately 53,000 people and there are approximately 10,000 creative businesses in WA, most of them sole traders.

There may be scope for growing the WA creative industries, particularly in the development of intellectual property and the export of creative services. Internationally the creative industries contribute $2,250 billion USD to the global economy annually, an estimated 3.0% of world GDP.1 In Australia, creative industries contribute 3.3% of GDP, and in WA they comprise 1.4% of GSP. Nationally the creative industries employ almost 600,000 people and generate $5.4 billion in export revenue.2

Creative industries are defined as “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent, and that have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property”.3


In 2018 creative industries in WA directly employed an estimated 38,372 people, comprising 2.5% of WA employment and making the creative industries WA’s 14th largest employer.4 According to the 2016 Census, an estimated 23,670 people also work in creative occupations within other WA industries, taking the total creative industries employment in 2016 to approximately 52,917 5, representing 4.5% of total state employment.6

From 2011 to 2016 the WA creative industries saw a modest rate of employment growth of 0.5%, compared to 1.2% nationally.7 Amongst Australia’s states and territories, WA has the fourth largest share of national creative industries employment (7.2%).

From 2017 to 2018, WA creative industries employment declined by an estimated -3.8% p.a.8 Over the same period, total WA employment grew by 0.9% p.a. and national creative industries employment grew by 2.0% p.a. Whilst we do not know for sure what has caused this decline, one possibility is a saturation of the WA market for creative services, coupled with a decline in local cultural production in the film, radio, arts and publishing domains.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a higher representation in the arts and screen sectors than in the wider WA employment market. They represent almost 3.0% of employment in film, TV, radio, music, performing and visual arts. By comparison, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians represent 1.6% of all employment in WA and 0.8% of employment in the WA creative industries as a whole.

Creative industries employment is largely based in the Greater Perth area (87.8%), with the greatest concentrations in Perth-Inner, and Perth-North West areas.

An estimated 10.0% of creative industries employment is based in regional WA (when Mandurah is included in regional WA). WA areas which have experienced significant growth include Mandurah and Perth-South West, with growth in employment from 2011 to 2016 by 13% and 19% respectively. When Mandurah is grouped with regional areas, the fall in regional creative industries employment is less marked, at -12.5% over the five years (or an annual fall of -2.6%). The growth in creative industries employment in Greater Perth is only slightly modified (a rise of 4.0% over the five years, compared to 4.1% if Greater Perth includes Mandurah).


WA has approximately 10,000 creative industry businesses, comprising 4.4% of all WA businesses and 7.9% of creative industries businesses nationally. The number of creative industry businesses has increased by 2.0% from 2013 to 2018, lower than the statewide rate of growth in the number of businesses at 5.8%.

The number of sole traders has increased by 4.0% while the number of businesses employing 1-19 people has fallen by 1.5%, which may reflect the trend of ‘disintermediation’ (the reduction in the traditional ‘middleman’ such as record companies or bricks and mortar bookstores) which is affecting the creative industries globally. This also helps to explain the drop in total employment rates whilst the number of businesses has increased.


In 2018 WA creative service exports were valued at an estimated $175.9 million, up from $117.4 million in 2013 and representing annual growth rate of 8.4%. WA’s creative services exports represent about 2.6% of the State’s total services exports, which is slightly higher than the Australian average of 2.1%.

Creative industries services exports are growing faster than other WA service exports. They grew by 8.4% p.a. from 2013 to 2018 compared to a growth rate of 1.7% for WA’s total service exports.

‘Computer and information services’ accounted for 82.4% of WA creative services exports in 2018 (compared to 76.9% nationally). This is followed by ‘Licences to reproduce and/or distribute computer services’, at 9.7% (compared to 7.5% nationally).

The largest growth in WA creative services exports from 2013 to 2018 was in ‘Intellectual property charges for music’, growing by 38.1% p.a. This is more than double the national annual growth rate in this category (14.0%). Other notable growth areas were:

  • ‘Licences to reproduce and/or distribute computer services’, at 13.6% p.a. (compared to a national rate of 9.5% pa); and
  • ‘Computer and Information services’, at 9.3% p.a. (compared to the national rate of 15.8%).

A notable category where WA creative services exports shrank is ‘Architectural services’. WA accounts for a disproportionate amount of the total national exports in this category: it was 24.1% of national ‘Architectural services’ exports in 2013 and is still 12.1% in 2018. However, this is a drop of about -10.7% p.a. Other states accounting for substantial percentages of ‘Architectural services’ exports all saw increases over this period.

Industry Value Add

The WA creative industries contributed an estimated $3.3 billion in Industry Value Add (IVA) to the WA economy in 2018-19, representing 1.4% of total GSP. Nationally, the creative industries are the 14th highest contributor to GDP, and the 18th highest contributor to WA GSP.

Among the domains making up the creative industries, the largest contributor to IVA is the ‘Software and digital content’ domain. This is the case both for WA, at 56.6%, and for Australia as a whole, at 61.1%.

The Australian creative industries IVA is forecast to grow by 2.3% p.a. over the next five years in line with OECD’s forecast for the overall Australian economy. It is estimated that WA’s creative industries’ IVA will also grow but at the slightly lower rate of 1.8% p.a. Only the ‘Publishing’ domain is expected to experience negative growth, at -3.2% p.a.

Summary of the creative industries in Australia and WA
Number of Businesses125,000 businesses10,000 businessesCreative industry businesses comprise 4.4% of all WA businesses, which in turn make up 7.9% of all national creative industry businesses.
Industry Value Add$52.2 billion$3.3 billionThis represents 1.4% of total state GSP in 2018-19.Industry Value Add measures the contribution of an industry to GDP. It is calculated as the market value of goods and services produced, minus the cost of goods and services used in their production.
Total Employment (direct + embedded)593,80052,900This represents 4.5% of total WA employment.This is the number of people working in creative industries and the number of people working in creative occupations in non-creative industries.
Exports$5.4 billion$175.9 millionCreative industries service exports comprised 2.6% of WA’s total service exports and 3.2% of Australia’s creative services exports in 2018.


  1. EY. (2015). Cultural Times – The First Global Map of Cultural and Creative Industries. The report examines 11 cultural and creative industries: advertising, architecture, books, gaming, movies, music, newspapers/magazines, performing arts, radio, television and visual arts.
  2. Creative industries IVA figure from IBISWorld reports, for 2018-19; BYP estimates. Employment figures based on ABS Census 2016; ABS Labour Force, Detailed, Quarterly, May 2019; BYP estimates. Export figures based on ABS International Trade: Supplementary Information, Calendar Year, 2018; ABS International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia, May 2019; BYP estimates.
  3. UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport, 2001.
  4. Employment figures after 2016 are sourced from the ABS Labour Market Survey 2018. Unless otherwise indicated, figures from 2016 and earlier are sourced from the ABS Census.
  5. This calculation is based on 2016 Census data for direct and embedded employment.
  6. Embedded employment, people working in creative occupations within non-creative industries, spans across a wide range of industries. In government context, this creates a potentially complex policy environment as well as introduces challenges in monitoring growth trends.
  7. Please note that this refers to direct rather than embedded employment.
  8. Please note that this refers to direct rather than embedded employment. This data is drawn from the Labour Market Survey Quarterly Reports, whereas 2011 to 2016 data is drawn from the Census. Please see section 3.3. for more information
Page reviewed 11 September 2023