Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre release new report on Class imbalances in UK Creative Jobs

Industry News  |  27 August 2020

Just 16% of people in creative jobs are from working class backgrounds and those from privileged backgrounds more likely to land a job, experience autonomy and progression, and shape what goes on stage, page and screen.

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New research (1) from the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) shows widespread class imbalances in the UK’s Creative Industries. Only 16% of people in creative jobs are from working class backgrounds, compared to almost a third of all workers from these origins. People from privileged backgrounds are more than twice as likely to land a job in the industry.

The creative industries are one of the UK’s greatest success stories and a driver of economic growth and jobs, however the sector suffers structural weaknesses that are likely to worsen during the pandemic. This study provides an up-to-date picture of workforce demographics, with baseline data to rebuild a more inclusive and diverse creative sector.

The research further showed that people from privileged backgrounds are more likely to:

  • Experience autonomy in their work and working hours
  • Have supervisory responsibility
  • Progress into managerial positions
  • Dominate key creative roles in the sector, shaping what goes on stage, page and screen. For example, this is the case for:
    ○ Authors and writers (59% are from privileged backgrounds)
    ○ Journalists, newspaper and periodical editors (58%)
    ○ Programmers and software development professionals (54%)
    ○ Arts officers, producers and directors (54%)

The study also highlights a ‘double disadvantage’ in securing a creative job for women, those from minority ethnic backgrounds, those with a disability, or with low skill levels. For instance, working class women are almost five times less likely to secure a creative job than men from privileged backgrounds, and working class people with a disability are more than three times less likely than privileged people without a disability. Those from a privileged background and qualified to degree-level or above are five and a half times as likely to secure a creative role than those of working-class background and skilled to GCSE-level.

Despite increasing action to promote inclusion in the sector by government and industry, the likelihood of someone from a working class background finding creative work remains largely unchanged over the past five years (17.6% of people in creative roles were of working class background in 2014 compared to 16.2% today).

Over the next two years, the PEC will lead a programme of work to catalyse collaborative action led by industry, trade bodies, wider stakeholders and Government. It will test and trial new policy, programmes and practices that promote a more diverse and inclusive creative economy and will show leadership as an industry on the vital issue of social mobility in the UK.

As part of this work, the PEC will be undertake ‘deep-dives’ into specific sub-sectors and occupations in the creative economy to: develop rich insight and hear real-life stories; surface the distinct circumstances and challenges evident in particular parts of the sector; and explore what policy, programmes and practices might work best in these areas. The first ‘deep-dive’ will focus on the UK screen industries, in partnership with ScreenSkills, the skills body for UK’s screen industries. The research will be UK-wide and will also work with wider industry stakeholders including Pact, British Film Institute, UK Screen Alliance, Access VFX, Animation UK, and Screen Industries Growth Network-Yorkshire.

“Even before the COVID pandemic, there were growing concerns about social mobility in the screen industries where those from privileged backgrounds appear more likely to succeed than those who are not. However, we do not know enough about class and social background in film and television and how they influence career progression which was why we wanted to be a partner in the new more detailed investigation into the issue.

As we rebuild the industry after the coronavirus lockdown, we will use the light shed by this new research on the important issue of background – and how that intersects with other issues such as ethnicity, disability and gender – to identify what more we can do to unblock barriers and unlock the potential of a greater diversity of talent.”

Seetha Kumar, CEO of ScreenSkills

Heather Carey, Co-Investigator at the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and Director of Work Advance, said:

“Through this work we want to catalyse collaborative action – led by industry, trade bodies, wider stakeholders and Government – to test and trial new policy, programmes and practices that promote inclusion in the Creative Industries; to show leadership as an industry on the vital issue of social mobility in the UK. Even before COVID-19, the industry was recognising a need to address these issues, and the pandemic has in many ways only served to emphasise the vulnerabilities such practices create. As we look to rebuild the sector, now is the time to consider how we can address long-standing structural weaknesses. We need to consider how we can build a more inclusive creative economy and how we can unlock the potential of the creative sector to support recovery and promote greater social mobility.”

Heather Carey, Co-Investigator at the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and Director of Work Advance

Read the summary of key findings and the full report: ‘Getting in and getting on: class, participation and job quality in the UK creative industries’.

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