Arts 'middle-class preserve'

New survey reveals barriers to diversity.

A job in the arts is becoming increasingly the preserve of the middle class.

That’s the major finding of a new survey which shows that the common impression “that the arts sector is a closed shop where most people are middle class” is backed by hard evidence.

Researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London, University of Sheffield and LSE found that an overwhelming majority of respondents working in the arts (76%) had at least one parent working in a managerial or professional job whilst they were growing up and that over half had at least one parent with a degree whilst growing up.

They also found that 88% of respondents working in the cultural industries have worked for free at some point in their careers, a further barrier to those who are unable to afford to forego salaries, even for a short period.

The survey, which was carried out by Create, the East London arts organisation as part of its Panic! project on social mobility in the arts,  also showed that men out-earned women and more than a third of people working in the cultural industries did not have a contract. More than 2,500 people working in all core areas of the cultural industries contributed to the survey.

Other findings reveal that:

 • Those that earn over £50,000 p/a you are most likely to believe that they got there through hard work, talent and ambition. Those earning under £5,000 p/a are most likely to believe that it’s not about what you know but who you know. 

• The majority of white people in the arts don’t acknowledge the barriers facing BAME people trying to find a foothold in the sector.

• Women are more likely than men to have worked in the arts sector for free and once paid are generally paid less than their male counterparts.

• 38% of respondents working in the cultural industries do not have a contract.

• 30% of BAME people think ethnicity is very important to getting ahead, whilst only 10% of white people believe ethnicity is very important to their chances of getting ahead.

• 32% of women are likely have done unpaid internships as opposed to 23% of men.

• On average men working in the cultural industries earn 32% more than women working in the sector.

Create s running a series of events  in partnership with the Barbican, the Guardian, Goldsmiths University and British Art Show 8. The programme will discuss the state of pop, the future of London, the economic value of a diverse cultural sector, and the impact of debt on creativity.

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