Australian Production Sector Struggling due to Workforce Shortages

Australian Production Sector
Caroline Swift / Courtesy of Warner Bros. Australia

The Australian screen production sector is facing a labour shortage due to the combined effects of workers in isolation due to COVID-19 and the vast amounts of content Australia is currently producing.

This shortage – which some in the sector say is taking out 20% of a production crew at any one time – was highlighted by multiple industry executives at the Screen Forever conference last week.

One such executive was Caroline Swift, head of entertainment for Warner Bros. Australia.

“I think our biggest issue is the tight labour force,” she said in an interview with Variety Australia. “I think we just don’t have enough really great experienced people for the amount of content that we’re producing.”

The labour shortage is being compounded by TV networks and other content platforms seeking to pay less for programs, making profitability for production companies extra difficult, she said.

“I think the other thing that we’re also facing is static or declining revenue – basically what the networks will pay, but with a tight labour force, escalating operating costs,” she said.

“So I think for the production community, the issue that we’ve got is we not only have to deliver great content, we’ve also got to make a profit. And sometimes, they’re mutually exclusive.”

In his opening remarks at Screen Forever, Screen Producers Australia CEO, Matthew Deaner, delved even further into the challenges CURRENTLY facing the production sector.

He went so far as to say some Government policies and decisions have “created existential threats” for the sector.

“Whilst the world around us has tipped on its head, our industry has certainly not stood still,” he said of the difficult past couple of years.

“While COVID raged, and lockdowns spread, the world still turned, with global entertainment behemoths launching into our market, broadcasters tearing down quotas, a COVID crisis in our industry and the Government response, big money into footloose productions, existential threats to children’s content producers, an almighty fight on tax offsets, shifting sands underneath Screen Forever and the sharpening of the policy debate around Australian content on streaming services.”