Global Animation Industry Employment Trends: Q1 2012

Bob Lincoln May 3, 2012 0

Special Report – Global Animation Industry Employment Trends: Q1 2012

The Institute for a Better Tomorrow has just released its Q1 2012 Global Animation Industry Employment Trends report, a comprehensive assessment of current labor trends and workplace conditions.

The following Executive Summary is a snapshot of the complete report, provided to 2Day in Animation as a service to its readers. Remember, this report is produced by seasoned marketing research professionals.  Please do not attempt to assemble your own economic statistics at home.

Executive Summary

The animation and visual effects industries entered 2012 facing widespread job creation challenges, as globalization of the creative labor force has shifted employment from a smaller number of established companies to a much larger number of smaller companies operating inside cardboard shanties, karaoke bars, dank noodle shop basements and abandoned mines situated across Africa, Asia and South America.

Animation studio labor productivity levels still lag between the developed and developing world, which is reflected in substantial wage and income level disparities.  Annual output rates per studio worker in the United States and European Union averaged US$125,000 in Q1 2012, while in developing countries, averaged US$937.58.

Future efforts to close that tremendous differential will require facilitating government subsidies for better artistic training, greater investments in production pipeline infrastructure and a significant increase in the use of specially trained mongooses to rid studios of scorpions, snakes and other deadly creatures that often keep otherwise productive animators scampering across the top of desks and cabinets for long stretches of the workday.

A sub-Saharan visual effects production complex. Governments must employ more trained mongooses to rid such studios of scorpions, snakes and other deadly creatures that often keep otherwise productive animators scampering across the top of desks and cabinets for long stretches of the workday.

In addition, this great productivity gap requires some contextual adjustment when taking into account that more than 40% of the animation studios started up in developing countries since 2008 are housed in production facilities that have no electricity. Or running water. To their credit, these studios remained in business despite the difficult challenge of producing animation without electricity. Or running water.  Almost 95% reported bidding on, accepting and being paid for service work, though unfortunately they were not able to produce or deliver any of it.  Or they simply chose not to.

Unlike their counterparts in developed countries, such as Canada, where whining is more popular than hockey, workers in developing countries are much less likely to complain about substandard working conditions, including being forced to make project backups on floppy disks, having storyboards stolen by packs of lemurs, or being required to work long hours while the nicely dressed guys in sales always seem to leave the office at 5.

Young workers were particularly hard hit by the recent economic upheaval in the animation industry. Young workers were three times as likely as older workers to be unemployed, and increasingly found themselves among the working poor.  They also increasingly found themselves among the working unfocused, the working too talkative, the working unskilled and the working stoned.  Q1 2012 saw an 8.7% increase in the number of young people withdrawing from the labor market altogether, as they increasingly found difficulty working an entire eight hour day for five consecutive days in a row.

New Siberian previs studio, Freeczardikov FX. Studios report seeing more visual effects service bids submitted with fees for potatoes, coal and firewood.

The global animation and visual effects industry has substantially reduced its capacity to add new, high paying jobs that provide health, education and familial benefits while at the same time, requiring little or no demonstrable skills. Those jobs continue to remain available only for production executives and workers involved in movie development.

Progress has been made decreasing poverty among the industry’s working poor, as Q1 2012 saw a 60% increase in the standard animator wage in developing countries from US$1.25 per day to US$2.00 per day. However, the subsequent number of employees in developing countries who could afford the cost of housing, food and transportation remained unchanged at 0.   Q1 2012 also saw a 32% increase in the amount and quality of breakroom snacks in studios across the United States, Canada and the European Union, bucking the trends that saw an overall 24% decrease in 2010 and 2011.  Q1 levels of breakroom snack quality and quantity in developing countries remained steady at 0.

New Bogata Digital Content incubation campus. Many studios found it increasingly difficult to bid on, accept and complete work without electricity and running water. Many, however, still managed to bid and accept work.

In conclusion, despite a smattering of areas exhibiting growth potential and market optimism, such as the rapid rise in the use of unpaid interns to take phone calls from angry clients wondering when their overdue projects would be delivered, the global outlook for animation and visual effects employment remains guarded.

Selected Statistical Report Highlights

Below is a sampling of the report’s findings, based on extensive data mining, analysis and extrapolation of labor statistics as well as surveys of more than 27,000 employers in 47 countries.  Percentage increases or decreases represent shifts charted in Q1 2012 over Q4 2011 values.

Analysis: Growing Number of Discouraged First Time Workers

  • 24% Q1 increase in number of first time workers discouraged that for first time they had to get up and go to work
  • 19% Q1 increase in number of first time workers discouraged that most studios start work at 9 a.m.
  • 11% Q1 increase in number of first time workers discouraged that parents will now only pay half their car insurance
  • 46% Q1 increase in number of first time workers discouraged that employers expect to review resumes and demo reels prior to handing out six-figure jobs
  • 35% Q1 increase in number of first time workers discouraged that recruiters are so touchy about texting during interviews

There was a 46% Q1 increase in the number of first time workers discouraged that employers expect to review resumes and demo reels prior to handing out six-figure jobs

Analysis: Trends in Animation Studio Workplace Conditions

  • Recent gender equality gains in post-production led to a 15% reduction in overall project render times
  • Women with access to child care were 37% more likely to dance topless at wrap parties
  • Studios reported a 14% decrease in use of “front door or back door” as the only choices for method of workplace sexual harassment
  • Employees reported a 31% increase in use of fabricated vector-based child porn images as means to gain employment or advance careers
  • 28% of female employees felt the installation of free condom dispensers in breakrooms, though thoughtful, was still inherently sexist
  • Employees in same sex relationships were 74% more likely to be asked to animate scenes involving small furry animals than employees in heterosexual or asexual relationships
  • 88% of companies reported they had to force their employees to watch the finished films they had worked on
  • Studios without suitable childcare options reported a 39% increase in first time workers forced to work entire days without access to supervised recess

Analysis: Trends in Continuing Education and Skills Training

  • 92% of studio employees still forget whether previs is spelled with an “s” or a “z”
  • IT and R&D management reported a 19% decrease in the disproportionate use of female models to pose nude in C++ training classes
  • 43% Q1 increase in availability of in-house courses for retraining personnel as fry cooks
  • 27% Q1 increase in employers requiring senior personnel to train their replacements before being fired
  • 13% Q1 increase in employer use of instructional videos, primarily through hidden bathroom cameras

28% of female employees felt the installation of free condom dispensers in breakrooms, though thoughtful, was still inherently sexist

Analysis: Trends Affecting Continuing Under-Employment of Workers Under Age 30

  • 32% Q1 increase in number of first time job seekers whose resume included the word “Chillaxin” to describe a summer job
  • 28% Q1 increase in number of young workers who thought “union activity” referred to how often they had intercourse
  • 18% Q1 increase in number of young workers who thought “benefits package” referred to their genitals
  • 28% increase in number of first year designers who thought “working on a cool spot” meant masturbating
  • 37% Q1 increase in number of young job seekers who posted humorous video of recent topless drinking binge on their Facebook
  • 41% Q1 increase in number of young job seekers whose humorous topless drinking binge Facebook video was reason they were hired

Analysis: Increased Animation Studio Reliance on Interns

  • 17% Q1 increase in studio use of interns for tasks usually handled by more skilled staff
  • 11% Q1 increase in studio use of interns longer than usual 3 month stints
  • 29% Q1 increase in number of studios that paid interns a stipend of as much as $2 per week
  • 18% Q1 increase in studio sanctioned Jell-O wrestling tournaments as means of determining which intern will get job offer
  • 37% Q1 increase in number of interns who demanded use of condoms in performance reviews
  • 29% of studios reported trading interns to other studios for weed, bottles of scotch or expensive crew jackets
  • 28% of studios reported convincing interns to provide naked pictures of siblings
  • 28% of studios reported convincing interns that VES membership required shaving the Superman logo into their pubic hair

Analysis: Frequently Used Reasons Studio Employers Give for Staff Reductions

  • 82% have used company Twitter account to inform employees of dismissal
  • 31% have told an employee, “We don’t have enough profitable work so we have to let you go.”
  • 27% have told an employee, “We are shutting down the studio so we have to let you go.”
  • 28% have told an employee, “We’re going to hire someone younger, who is more skilled than you and costs much less.”
  • 22% have told an employee, “I just bought a new Benz and you’re the least attractive employee here.”
  • 38% have told an employee, “You are old and fat, so please leave.”
  • 19% have told an employee, “The only real job security around here is oral sex.”

Analysis: Trending Labor Assessment Terminology

  • Low Income Economies: California visual effects industry
  • Wage and Income Differential: You work 275 hours the last three weeks of a production, the studio folds and pays you nothing
  • Occupational Segregation: Bringing the hot girls in marketing to NAB and handcuffing them in separate closets
  • Overseas Labor Migration: Tranny assistant takes a shopping trip to Singapore
  • Labor Market Flexibility: Using a flashlight on the producer instead of a broom handle
  • Direct and Indirect Gender Discrimination: Sorry I came in your mouth / Sorry I came on your dress
  • Informal Economy: Forgetting to get the business card of the recruiter you just blew
  • Working Poor to Headcount Poverty Ratio: insert your own developing country oral sex joke here

Acknowledgements

This Global Employment Trends: Q1 2012 Summary Report was prepared by the Institute for a Better Tomorrow’s Animation Research Group (ARG), with field offices in Cedar Rapids and Amsterdam.  ARG’s report team was led by Gunnar McCourt and Yonaton Perez.

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