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A wider lens: Taking a closer look at employment in the screen industry

This article takes a closer look at people working in the screen industry, and their jobs. It builds on an experimental series published in 2012 that uses Linked Employer-Employee Data (LEED) to supplement the Screen Industry Survey.

The Screen Industry Survey is an annual survey of all businesses working in the New Zealand screen industry that create, broadcast, distribute, or exhibit screen content. This article uses existing datasets to find new information about New Zealand screen industry jobs and the people who do them.

People working in the screen industry

The total number of people who worked in the screen industry in 2012 was 15,700. Just over half of all people working in the screen industry (9,000) worked in production and post-production, closely matching the proportion of total revenue generated from this sector ($1,654 million out of $3,290 million). However, the relationship between revenue and the number of people employed is not always simple, as different sectors have different labour needs. Only about one-quarter of people who worked in the screen industry worked in broadcasting, which was responsible for about 40 percent of revenue, while almost 20 percent of people worked in exhibition, which was only responsible for 5 percent of total revenue in 2012.

Graph, Weighted count of people employed in the screen industry, 2005 to 2012 financial years.

Younger and female workers more likely to work in distribution or exhibition

The data also shows the age and sex of people who work in the screen industry. In 2012, of those aged 15–29 years working in the industry, about 40 percent worked in distribution or exhibition and about 40 percent in producing or contracting. In contrast, for all age groups over 30 years, about 60 percent of people worked in producing or contracting, and 10 percent in distribution and exhibition combined. This may be a reflection of different levels of experience and qualifications required by work in the different sectors.

Graph, Age distribution of employees in screen industry, by industry sector, 2012 financial year.

From 2005 to 2012, by sex, more males than females worked in producing and contracting (content creation), and more females worked in exhibition and distribution. Broadcasting has had a more even sex divide, with males slightly outnumbering females since the start of the series.

Graph, Percentage of males and females in screen industry, by industry sector, 2012 financial year.

Earnings make up one-quarter of screen industry revenue

As well as providing us with information on people, LEED also gives us a picture of the number of jobs provided by the screen industry from 2005 to 2012. These counts will be different to the counts of people, as one person may hold multiple jobs in the screen industry in a given year.

In 2012, the 15,700 people working in the screen industry carried out 28,900 jobs. These jobs earned $787 million in 2012. This means that of the $3,290 million in revenue generated by the screen industry, just under one-quarter went in to working people’s pockets.

Graph, Total earnings received, by industry sector, 2005 to 2012 financial years.

Most of these earnings, about 60 percent, came from production and post-production, while around 40 percent came from broadcasting, distribution, and exhibition. Production and post-production earnings came to 30 percent of total revenue for that sector, while broadcasting, distribution, and exhibition earnings came to about 20 percent of revenue.

Median earnings in the screen industry

Find out more about median earnings and the 25th and 75th percentiles, and how they are calculated. 

Producing businesses provided 14,400 jobs in 2012, with total earnings of $230 million, while contracting earned $268 million from only 5,900 jobs. The difference in earnings per job between the producing and contracting sectors is reflected in the median earnings value of jobs in each sector. The median earning figure for producing was $2,500. This means that half of all producing jobs had very low earnings, indicating they were likely to be part-time jobs, or only covered part of the year. This will include the ‘negative’ earning figures from jobs of self-employed persons who made a loss in that year.

Graph, Earnings from producing, by job, 2005 to 2012 financial years.

Half of all contracting jobs earned $20,000 or more, which indicates that a greater number of contracting jobs provided something closer to full-time wages per job than producing did. Maximum and minimum values have not been released for confidentiality reasons.

Graph, Earnings from contracting, by job, 2005 to 2012 financial years.

The median value gives a better indication of the spread of values in the industry than a mean (commonly referred to as 'average') would. A mean value could conceal important information about the jobs within a sector – it would be impossible to tell whether a sector was dominated by many low-paying jobs and a few high-paying ones, or if it comprised jobs with earnings all very close to the mean (or 'average'). The median figure can reveal this information about the distribution of the earnings without breaching confidentiality.

Graph, Median of job earnings, by industry sector, 2005 to 2012 financial years.

The distribution of earnings per job in the sector does not necessarily reflect the distribution of earnings by person. The screen industry provides more jobs than there are people working in the industry, which means that a single person may hold many small jobs in a given year.

Graph, Earnings from screen industry jobs, by person, 2005 to 2012 financial years.

The median earning figure for people in the screen industry has increased by almost 70 percent since 2005, to $32,224 in 2012. For comparison, LEED data shows that over all industries in New Zealand, the median annual earning was $34,360. Only people’s earnings from screen industry businesses are used in our figures, which means that an individual’s overall income might be higher if they also work for non-screen-industry businesses.

Previous employment counts

Rolling mean employment (RME) has provided employment figures for the screen industry in previous years. It is a monthly count of PAYE-based employees, averaged over 12 months. This measure of employment works well in many industry sectors: it levels out small fluctuations in otherwise stable labour environments, and it is based on regularly updated taxation data. However, it doesn’t work well for the screen industry which contains a lot of self-employed and contracted workers working on short-term contracts.

Instead we have moved to using LEED, or Linked Employer-Employee Data. LEED combines data on PAYE, withholding tax, sole trader, and self-employed income with Statistics NZ’s Business Frame.

We produce LEED data for the screen industry by identifying the list of businesses who respond to the screen industry survey and matching them to their LEED data. We are able to find out how many people they employed or paid in a given year, and how much these people’s jobs paid in earnings, as well as characteristics such as age and sex. Jobs are assigned a screen industry sector such as producing, contracting or broadcasting based on the main source of income of the business which provides them.

This experimental series covers 2005 to 2012 and builds on the figures released in the article Wider lens brings screen employment into focus. The series corresponds with the start of our Screen Industry Survey collection, and runs through to the most recent, complete set of LEED annual data. Please note that 2012 LEED is provisional, so we may adjust some figures in the future.

Medians and percentiles: A new measure

This year we have released the median value of job earnings by sector, and people’s total screen industry earnings by year. We have also included the 25th and 75th percentiles in our tables and graphs. The 25th percentile represents a value that one-quarter of all jobs or people earned less than, the median a value that half of all jobs or people earned less than, and the 75th percentile a value that three-quarters of all jobs or people earned less than. This gives us information about how common low or high earnings have been in a given year or sector.

These measures tend to give a better indication of the kinds of earnings that exist per job or person than the mean (or ‘average’) would. The mean of earnings per job, for example, would be calculated by dividing the total earnings from all jobs by the number of jobs, but this can be skewed by a few unusually high- or unusually low-earning jobs. The way that earnings are spread between jobs will be different for each sector depending on the kind of work done.


The figures published in this article contain some revisions to LEED-linked screen industry figures published in 2012. In those tables, earnings had been calculated using a methodology which did not clearly identify whether a person was a wage and salary earner or a self-employed person. This may have led to an overstating of corresponding earnings in cases where self-employed persons also paid themselves a wage.

This year we ensured that wage and salary earners and self-employed persons were clearly identified so that earnings could be calculated consistently. This has resulted in substantial revisions to earnings figures and to counts of people and jobs.  These refinements are part of ongoing improvements to this experimental series.

For more information on definitions used in this article, please see the latest release Screen Industry Survey: 2012/13. The corresponding revenue year to the LEED data above is 2012.

For more information contact:

Jason Attewell
Wellington 04 931 4600

ISBN 978-0-478-40895-9 (online)

Published 13 May 2014

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