How young creative workers are dealing with COVID-19

The cultural and creative sectors are among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Events have been shut down. Concerts postponed. Film festivals moved online. Batik sales have decreased by 30 percent as creative entrepreneurs struggle to find customers.


Indonesia’s creative economy contributes over seven percent of national GDP. It spurs innovation across the economy. Its economic activities are based on individual creativity, skills and talent that have economic value and contribute to social welfare. About 18% of young people, aged between 16-30 years old, are active in the sector; from film, craft and fashion to advertising, interactive games and performing arts.

Yet little is done by the Indonesian Government to support this struggling sector, compared to the range of initiatives made available for business enterprises. A recent survey showed more than half of creative workers have had to rely on their own savings or borrow money from friends to cope with day-to-day needs. To shed further insights on this issue, a new Australia-Indonesia Centre (AIC) Rapid Research project will examine how the pandemic is impacting this sector. It will explore, in particular, how young people are handling the social and economic shocks of COVID-19.

The research will focus on the special region of Yogyakarta. The city’s creative industries employ 172,000 workers and contribute US$0.238 billion in revenue to the national economy.

“Our study will focus on local filmmakers, dancers, theatre workers, musicians, photographers, and fashion designers from Yogyakarta whose livelihoods have been hindered by COVID-19 social distancing measures,” says Dr Annisa R. Beta, the AIC’s project co-lead.

“We will focus on the lives of creative workers, because it has been one of the biggest contributors to national income from the creative sector, which has been known for its capability in coping with crisis and disaster through practices of solidarity.”

The research will examine the factors that threaten the sustainability and development of the creative economy during and post COVID-19. It will identify the reactions, responses and strategies of young creative workers to navigate the socio-economic shocks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 crisis has made production of creative goods almost impossible. The crisis highlights the need to be entrepreneurial and resilient at the same time,” says Dr Oki Rahadianto Sutopo, project co-lead.

“Creative workers bear the responsibility of survival in a rapidly changing global creative economy and in times of crisis, requiring them to be not just creative workers but also cultural entrepreneurs.”

The study will also provide an evidence-based framework to inform the policy community about possible interventions to support creative workers’ resilience in dealing with risk and crisis.

“Currently there is a gap between grassroots practice and the policymakers. The COVID-19 pandemic makes the gap even more observable,” said co-lead Dr Oki Rahadianto Sutopo.

The findings of the study will be shared with relevant policy makers including the Creative Economy Agency and the provincial Government of Yogyakarta, as well as the wider public.


The research team

Co-leads: Dr Annisa R. Beta (UniMelb), Dr Oki Rahadianto Sutopo (UGM)

Participants: Dr Ariane Utomo (UniMelb), Dr Novi Kurnia (UGM), Gregorious Ragil Wibawanto (UGM).


Australian Media enquiries

Marlene Millott
PAIR Program Officer
+61 427 516 851

Indonesian Media enquiries

Fadhilah Trya Wulandari
PAIR Program Officer
+62 8124 3637 755


About the Australia-Indonesia Centre

The AIC was established by the Australian and Indonesian Governments in 2013. It brings together 11 universities – seven Indonesian and four Australian – to advance people-to-people links in science, technology, education, innovation and culture. The AIC designs and facilitates bilateral research programs, taking research outcomes to policy and practice. It forms interdisciplinary teams that work collaboratively with stakeholders – policy, business and community – to find solutions to regional, national and global challenges.

Beyond research, the AIC’s outreach activities contribute to broader people-to-people links. It runs digital dialogues that seek to shed new insights. It supports the deepening of cultural exchange through a binational short film festival, explores respective national attitudes and perceptions towards each other, and brings together future leaders of both nations workshops, dialogues and other programs.

The Rapid Research program is part of the AIC’s Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research, funded by the Australian Government.  It is AIC’s front-foot response to a better understanding of COVID-19’s impact on Indonesia’s economy and society.  It brings together Sixty Australian and Indonesian researchers from the AIC’s consortium of 11 universities to explore three areas: COVID-19 People and Health; COVID-19, People and Connectivity, and COVID-19, People and Economic Recovery.


Photo by/Foto oleh ap hekeisolai on Unsplash