Findings have just been published from a national survey about the working lives of cultural and creative workers in the UK. It was carried out by Goldsmiths, University of London, University of Sheffield and LSE as part of their project Panic! What Happened to Social Mobility in the Arts?
The findings provide hard evidence for the common impression that the arts sector is a closed shop where most people are middle class and it also makes revealing discoveries about how gender and ethnicity can affect a career in the arts and how higher wage earners view the sector in comparison to lower wage earners.
They’re not kidding. People who earn over £50,000 PA tend to believe it was their hard work and talent that counted, while those earning under £5,000 (over a quarter of the respondents) believe that it’s not what you know but who you know that counts. 18% of those surveyed earned only £5-15K PA; the Living Wage Foundation’s figure of £8.25 an hour for 38 hours per week, 52 weeks a year, would be £16,302 PA for a bare minimum standard of living.
76% of people working in the arts grew up with at least one parent who worked in a middle class managerial or professional occupation. 88% of arts workers did so for free at some point in their careers. 23% of men and 32% of women took part in unpaid internships. All of these findings strongly emphasise the role of the hotel and bank of mummy and daddy in launching the careers of most “hard working”, “talented” arts professionals, and the later necessity for many cultural workers to be partnered with somebody who earns a reasonable wage, because the cultural workers themselves rarely do.
In other shit news, men still earn on average 32% more than women for doing comparable jobs in the cultural industries.
PS I assume it’s just really bad writing on behalf of Hannah Ellis-Petersen (eponysterical QED for that typical middle class name) in The Guardian when she says that “44% of those from BAME backgrounds felt ethnicity was either “essential” or “very important” to getting ahead in the arts”. I doubt the survey authors are really suggesting that black and minority ethnic people are only given opportunities because they’re ethnic minorities, i.e. 44% of BAME people think their ethnicity was the most important aspect of their success.