Video game workers at “significant disadvantage” in Australia’s tech sector

A new report from Professionals Australia has flagged a major pay divide between new and traditional tech companies, and companies making games.
video game developer pay gap australia

A new report from Professionals Australia has flagged a significant pay gap between those working for game companies, and those working for traditional and new tech companies, despite the shared skills within the sector.

Per analysis of over a thousand responses from Professional Australia union members and non-members, it was discovered that the median base salary of game workers was “43% less than those working at big New Tech employers” including Google and Atlassian. While games sector workers enjoyed salary growth of 5.7% – in line with others in the tech sector – proportionally, they are still underpaid, compared to those at traditional and new technology companies.

The games industry also seemingly has a less stable base for employment, as redundancies have become common in recent months. The research for the Professionals Australia report was conducted between April and May 2023, but in delivery, the union was keen to underline the major impact of games industry redundancies over the last few months.

“People who work in the games sector are there because we love it. We want to make games and we’ve often worked really hard to get in the door,” Mitch McCausland, co-convenor of Game Workers Australia said. “Sweeping layoffs have sent shockwaves through the industry this year though. The mantra is ‘survive until 2025.'”

Recently, we’ve seen major Australian game companies including Samurai Punk, Mighty Kingdom, and League of Geeks initiate significant layoffs, or shut down entirely, as a result of tough economic conditions.

Women are also at significant disadvantage in the tech sector

Elsewhere in its survey, Professionals Australia found that woman were also at a disadvantage in the games and tech sectors, with their pay still being around 14% lower than men in equivalent positions. Additionally, the survey found women were twice as likely to be bullied or harassed in the workplace than men, and they suffered from low representation in the tech sector, particularly at a senior management level.

Read: IGDA reveals 10,500 game developers lost jobs due to layoffs in 2023

“The perception of the tech and IT sector is often of innovation, dynamism, growth and high
salaries. But the reality for the tech and IT workers on the ground can vary depending on where you
work and your gender,” Paul Inglis, Professionals Australia interim CEO said.

Per Professionals Australia, the data collected in its latest renumeration report identifies a need to continue pushing for better standards in the tech sector overall. It’s also highlighted the power of collective bargaining as part of a union, as this can be wielded to improve pay conditions, and to ensure business culture is supportive of everyone.

“[The Game Workers Australia] Discord channel has more than 200 game workers sharing advice, supporting one another through difficulties and working together for rewarding, secure careers. We’ve won real progress in contracts and pay because we stood together as a workforce,” McCausland said. “Right now, people working in games are in survival mode, but we are in survival mode together, and that makes a difference.”

Going forward, there is hope for change – but change is only possible through acknowledgement. It’s important to understand the gaps in the modern tech sector, where improvements can be made, and how companies may grow with a stronger, support-focussed culture.

You can read the entire Professionals Australia renumeration report on the union’s website.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.