Survey exposes class, gender and race inequalities in culture

Researchers from the Office for National Statistics (UK) have debunked the myth that creative and cultural jobs are open to all with talent, regardless of background.

In a study exposing race, class, gender and pay inequalities, published in the journal 'Cultural Trends', researchers found that some 43% of people working in publishing, 28% in music and 26% in design come from a privileged background, compared with 14% of the population as a whole.

Fewer than 7% of employees in large parts of the Creative and Cultural Industries (CCIs) are members of black or minority ethnic groups. Just 4% of those working in design, and 5% of people in crafts across the UK are non-white.

Excluding the IT sector, only 6.5% of CCI workers are non-white.

To compare, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (2014) show that 13% of the UK’s 64 million people, 10% of the 23-69 year old workforce, and more than 40% of London’s population are black and minority ethnic (BAME).

Researchers found that the most ethnically diverse CCI is IT, software and computing: Around 15% of employees are from BAME backgrounds. However, just 15% of employees in this occupation are women.

Women make up 54% of publishing, but just 24% of film, TV, radio and photography employees and 30% of architecture employees are female.

There is a significant gender and class ‘ceiling’, where women in cultural and creative industries earn, on average, an estimated £112 per week (around £5,800 a year) less than otherwise similar men doing the same jobs. The researchers found that in architecture the gap between men and women’s salaries is estimated at £151 per week – around £7800 per year.

In contrast, the pay gap between surveyed men and women in advertising, design, publishing, and museums and galleries was not found to be statistically significant.

In many parts of the creative and cultural industries, workers from the most privileged backgrounds earned more than the rest of the CCI workforce, even when they were doing the same jobs. In IT the earnings gap is estimated at £117 per week based on the social background of the worker, and in publishing it is about £191 per week.

Dr Dave O’Brien (ICCE) explains: “Concerns over diversity are often dismissed using individuals’ anecdotes about career successes. Ours is the first large-scale study of Britain’s cultural and creative workforce that actually provides robust data contradicting the narrative that creative and cultural jobs are open to all with talent, regardless of background.”

“It is the occupations most closely associated with the arts, such as film, TV, radio and photography, where inequalities are most worrying. Working class and BAME people, from our analysis are underrepresented in many cultural and creative industries, and women face worrying pay gaps based on their gender.

"Moreover, the differences across and between the occupations labelled as cultural and creative industries raises questions about the usefulness of thinking about these jobs as a coherent sector of the economy.

The inequalities we observed begin with educational inequalities, and are compounded by the uneven geography of access to creative work – whether or not someone’s able to work in London, with the unpaid internships, high rents and commuting costs this often entails.

The researchers studied data relating to ‘post-industrial’ occupations – work based on citizens’ capacity as creative individuals, rather than as of producers of material goods. Jobs were grouped into nine clusters: advertising and marketing; architecture; crafts; design; film, TV, video, radio, photography; IT, software and computer services; publishing; museums, galleries and libraries; and music, performing and visual arts.

Are the Creative Industries meritocratic? An analysis of the 2014 British Labour Force Survey’ by Dave O’Brien (Goldsmiths), Daniel Laurison and Sam Friedman (LSE), and Andrew Miles (Manchester), was published in Cultural Trends online on Tuesday 12 April.

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