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Australia's creative and cultural industries contribute more than $86 billion annually to the national economy - more than the transport industry or welfare sector - the first research of its kind by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed.

Some leading figures in Victoria's arts community say they are not surprised at the sector's contribution to the economy and hope its growth can help counter recent job losses in industries such as car manufacturing.

The data is the first statistical analysis by the ABS concentrated on the role of the sectors in the national economy.

Its definition of creative industries includes broadcast and print media, film, music, fashion, the visual arts and cultural institutions such as museums and libraries.

The largest contributors to the sector include design ($26.6 billion), fashion ($11.8 billion) and publishing (literature and the print media, $7.6 billion). Those sectors employed an average of 769,800 people, while volunteer services were estimated to be worth $756 million to the economy.

The contribution of the industries to Australia's GDP outranks that of countries including Britain, the US, Canada and Spain, but this reflects the broader definition of cultural and creative sectors in this study.

The statistics are based on the 2008-09 national accounts. Statistics for more recent financial years will be assessed in coming months.

Andrew Middleton, ABS director of culture, recreation and migration, said the statistics were also based on information from the census and the non-profit sector.

Mr Middleton said the sports sector would be the next area scrutinised in a similar manner.

Melbourne Theatre Company executive director Virginia Lovett said her organisation was active in attempting to engage young people in recruiting and training. It recently held information sessions with high schools, including one in Cranbourne, to inform students about pathways into the industry.

Ms Lovett said the ABS figures would help the sector to be taken more seriously as a growing ''economic force'' and attract extra funding to employ more people in a state that has been seriously affected by job cuts. ''It hammers home that we are an economic driver,'' she said.

Barry Conyngham, dean of the University of Melbourne's Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, said the research showed culture was more than a mere luxury or frivolity and instead was a major employer.