5271.0.55.002 - Information Paper: Cultural and Creative Activity Satellite Accounts, Australia, 2013  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/12/2013  First Issue
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The ABS received 17 submissions giving feedback on the proposals in the discussion paper. Most of the submissions were from peak industry groups and other advocacy bodies for arts and culture in Australia. The key stakeholders from government and academia had previously given their input to the ABS as the proposals were being developed.

Overall, the submissions were highly supportive of the proposed approach to construct the satellite accounts, the data which would be used, and the investment priorities. In addition to confirming their support, stakeholders provided a range of comments and queries which were mostly focused around the common themes discussed below.


Some of the submissions commented that it is important to recognise cultural and creative pursuits can contribute to community wellbeing and quality of life in more ways than just the contribution they make to the economy. For example:

  • people’s values, behaviour and understanding of the world can be positively influenced by activities such as reading literature and attending theatrical performances;
  • the physical activity associated with using public parks, and participating in activities such as dancing, can improve people’s health outcomes; and
  • social cohesion and connectedness can be strengthened through shared cultural experiences, such as attending a cultural festival or a live music performance.

The ABS agrees cultural and creative activity can provide broader social benefits to the community such as those described above. However, these broader social benefits are outside of the traditional scope of a satellite account and are inherently difficult to measure with rigour in monetary terms, as would be required for a satellite account.

Australia has a comprehensive framework for social statistics22 which recognises the importance of culture as a contributor to wellbeing. For over ten years Australia has been at the forefront of measuring the progress of societies through its work on Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0), which is designed to enable readers to answer the question ‘Is life in Australia getting better?’ Among the key indicators which the ABS uses to measure wellbeing and societal progress are attendance at cultural venues and events, and participation in selected cultural activities. Details on attendance and participation are also published in Arts and Culture in Australia: A Statistical Overview (cat. no. 4172.0).

In addition to these statistical activities, the ABS is working with other partners in Australia's National Statistical System to articulate Australia's essential statistical assets23. Stakeholders from across governments have recognised the importance of cultural statistics in this process.


Many of the submissions sought to clarify whether particular activities were included in the proposed scope of the satellite accounts. Typically this clarification was needed because stakeholders in the ‘real world’ use different terminology to describe industries and occupations than is used by official statistical classifications.

After investigation, the ABS found nearly all the activities described by the submissions would be fully captured within the proposed scope. The other activities had been excluded during the scope’s development in accordance with the consensus input the ABS received from key government organisations and academics.

The ABS has considered whether these other activities could be included in the satellite accounts without diminishing the usefulness of the data outputs for the overwhelming majority of stakeholders who fully support the proposed scope. Unfortunately including the additional activities would overstate the satellite account totals for most stakeholders and also overstate some of the domain-level data outputs. The ABS has therefore elected to proceed with the scope which was proposed in the discussion paper.


‘Creative’ activity is an emerging concept which has gained prominence internationally through work such as the United Nation’s Creative Economy Report 2008 24. Several submissions sought to clarify how the concept would be implemented in the satellite accounts and how this relates to the broader concept of ‘creativity’.

Simply put, creativity refers to the formulation of new ideas. Creativity can be a feature of all industries and occupations in the economy, although it is a stronger feature of some than others. Industries and occupations in which creativity is thought to be a particularly significant feature are often described as ‘creative’ by government, academic and industry circles. The creative activity satellite account would be designed to measure the productive activities of these industries and occupations labelled as ‘creative’. The creative activity satellite account would not specifically measure the economic contribution of creativity.

Choices about which activities should be labelled as ‘creative’ must obviously be made with a level of subjective judgement. In the absence of an international standard statistical definition, the scope proposed for the Australian creative activity satellite account has been informed by international literature and consultation with key stakeholders for whom the account must be meaningful. The literature and stakeholder views about ‘creative’ have tended to evolve over time and if this continues the scope of the creative activity satellite account may well be refined in the future.


Some of the submissions expressed strong interest in state and territory splits of the Australian satellite accounts and queried whether estimates might also be possible for geographic regions below the state level (e.g. local government areas). Others queried whether it would be possible for the ABS to produce estimates of the value of cultural and creative activity by particular population groups (e.g. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people with a disability).

Most of the source data for the satellite accounts are designed to describe aspects of the economy at a fairly aggregated level. The geographic and demographic variables which would be needed to produce estimates for small areas or particular population groups are in most cases unavailable. Where such geographic and demographic variables are available, either in the source data or on supplementary data sets, there are limits on how far we can ‘drill down’ before the data quality drops below acceptable levels.

In the discussion paper, the ABS explained how it may be possible to estimate state and territory splits of the Australian satellite accounts using, among other things, the ABS’ Economic Activity Survey data and Business Activity Statement data collected by the Australian Taxation Office. The ABS would further assess the feasibility of state and territory splits after cultural and creative satellite accounts are produced at the national level. There may be unforeseen issues with the quality of the underlying data which prevent this geographical split. Splits below the state level would be even more problematic because there are fewer sub-state indicators available, as well as a greater challenge to assign the activity of businesses which operate at multiple locations.

The ABS’ Census of Population and Housing is perhaps the most useful data source currently available for stakeholders seeking more detail than would be provided in the satellite accounts. The Census provides a highly accurate profile of the population in Australia every five years, and can be used to research the employment and income characteristics of people by industry, occupation, geographic area and a wide range of demographic variables25. Additional statistics about the employment and income characteristics of particular population groups can be obtained from ABS social surveys, such as the General Social Survey and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey26.


The discussion paper noted that the key stakeholders from government and academia would require the satellite accounts to be produced a minimum of every three years. The submissions provided by other stakeholders stated that an annual or biennial frequency would be strongly preferred. Most stakeholders from both groups also asked the ABS to look at how the satellite accounts might be produced and published with a shorter period of time elapsed after the end of the reference year.

The ABS’ ability to produce the satellite accounts for any given reference year will depend on the availability of external investment funding, as well as the availability of the various input data needed to construct the accounts. The most critical data inputs are the ABS’ input-output tables (including product details tables), which are also produced under a funding arrangement with external users.

In recent years the input-output tables have been published around 39 months after the end of the reference year they relate to. To improve the timeliness of the input-output tables in the future, the ABS plans to skip ahead and next produce these tables for the 2012-13 reference year, which would be published around June 2015. This would enable the timeliness of the input-output tables to be improved to around 24 months and would also allow an improvement to the timeliness of the satellite accounts.

22 Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001 (cat. no. 4160.0).
23 Essential Statistical Assets for Australia (cat. no. 1395.0).
24 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (2008), Creative Economy Report 2008, <http://unctad.org/en/Docs/ditc20082cer_en.pdf>.
25 Census data is available on the ABS website at <http://www.abs.gov.au/census>.
26 Published in National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (cat. no. 4714.0).