Press Release

Give locked-out young Londoners a fair shot at working in creative industries, think tank urges

A new report by Centre for London, supported by the Swarovski Foundation, calls on London’s creative and cultural employers and educators to give young Londoners a fair shot at working in the industry, by paying interns a proper salary, creating a London-wide mentoring programme, and focusing recruitment practices on talent not networks.


Class and ethnicity too often determine a young person’s success in gaining employment or progressing within London’s creative and cultural industries, with women also underrepresented in senior jobs. This is according to new Centre for London research, which finds that London’s creative sector has failed to diversify its workforce, despite significant job growth since 2012.

The report, Culture Club, finds that the number of London jobs in the creative and cultural industries – which includes everything from graphic designers to producers, and from artists to photographers – increased by 24 per cent between 2012 and 2016. But people from Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, who form 40 per cent of London’s population, accounted for just 23 per cent of employees in the sector in 2016. Class divides are also entrenched; analysis suggests that just five per cent of employees are from less advantaged backgrounds.

This underrepresentation is felt even more acutely at the top; people from BAME groups make up just 14 per cent of managers, directors and senior officials. And while women are better represented in mid to lower-skilled positions (58 per cent of secretarial, customer service, and elementary occupations), they face a strong glass-ceiling effect with men accounting for 70 per cent of managers, directors and senior officials in the sector.

Drawing on focus groups with young Londoners, the report highlights the barriers they face in accessing employment opportunities in the sector. The common struggles included being unable to afford unpaid internships, being ill-equipped to adapt to unstructured career paths like freelance working and not having personal contacts to draw on when recruitment is often informal.

Some cultural institutions have recognised the sector needs to change, with employers such as the London Transport Museum and The Roundhouse introducing schemes to support young people to access jobs and training. But more needs to be done to ensure other businesses follow their lead.

Drawing on this good practice, the report puts forward a series of measures to ensure that young people from all backgrounds can access cultural and creative courses and the growing number of job opportunities in London. It urges educators and practitioners to make the sector fairer by adopting a series of measures, including:

Paying interns fairly for their time: Unpaid internships create a gap between those that can afford to do them and those that can’t. All internships in the creative and cultural industries should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, and subject to The Mayor’s “Good Work Standard”; larger cultural employers should offer at least the London Living Wage for internships and entry-level roles.

Creating a London-wide mentoring programme: Educational institutions and employers should work together to develop and implement a formal mentoring programme, with specific targets for take-up from young people belonging to underrepresented groups. Though some initiatives currently exist in different pockets of the city, these need to be met London-wide.

Amending recruitment practices: The creative and cultural industries should amend its recruitment practices to focus on creative talent, potential, and measurable skills such as team playing, rather than focusing on academic achievement – which serves to overlook candidates. This applies to both employers and universities/colleges.

Mario Washington-Ihieme, Researcher at Centre for London said:

“Too many young people are locked out of the opportunities in London’s creative industries.

“Sadly, it is still who you know, not what you know, that counts. And being unable to afford unpaid internships or unstable freelance work makes it harder still to get a job in the sector.

“Ultimately, if people in positions of power continue to hire people who are predominantly ‘like’ them, the creative industries will continue to miss out. London’s culture club needs to open its doors.”

Nadja Swarovski, Chairperson of the Swarovski Foundation said:

“We are delighted to partner with the Centre for London for this report on social mobility in the creative and cultural industries.

“The Swarovski Foundation is committed to removing barriers to entry and expanding opportunities in the arts for all, and this important piece of research shines a light on the issues present and proposes key recommendations to drive positive change.”

Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries said:

“London is a world cultural capital and the creative industries are vital to our city’s success – contributing £47bn to the UK economy and accounting for one in six jobs in London. Despite this, data clearly shows that the creative sector is falling short in reflecting the diversity of our city.

“Our diversity is a strength and London is overflowing with creative talent – but we can’t allow it to be locked out, we must make sure Londoners from all backgrounds are able to access the creative career opportunities on offer.”

“So I want to encourage the creative sector to address this urgent challenge and give London’s artists and entrepreneurs, regardless of background, the support they need to become the creative leaders of the future.”

Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins and Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of the Arts London said:

“As the largest source of graduates for London’s creative industries, the University of the Arts London is fully supportive of the recommendations of this report.

“We are acutely conscious of the pressures our students and graduates are under, and are committed to enabling more inclusive and diverse routes into the creative industries.

“The report is an important wake-up call for us all, in that the findings, uncomfortable though they sometimes are, need to be taken seriously if we are to avoid the creative industries becoming exclusive bastions of privilege.”

Young creative Jyotsna Shelley said:

“Getting a job in the creative sector only becomes easier once you get your foot in the door. You initially have to work for free to get ‘experience’ which can be incredibly draining. I’ve come to realise that positions like arts administration are extremely underpaid and the progression route is slow or non-existent.

“People in managerial positions throw around the word ‘experience’ but it actually means ‘you are too young to be promoted even if you have the skill set’, which is very frustrating. Young creatives need to be paid in regard to their skillset and not their age. A lot of creative people have two jobs, one job that gives you a stable income and the second job being your passion.”


About Centre for London

  • Centre for London is the capital’s dedicated think tank. Our mission is to develop new solutions to London’s critical challenges and advocate for a fair and prosperous global city.

About Swarovski Foundation

  • This report has been generously supported by the Swarovski Foundation.
  • The Swarovski Foundation, set up in 2013, works to support culture and creativity, promote human empowerment and conserve natural resources to achieve positive social impact. Within its wider mission, the Foundation is committed to removing barriers to access in the arts for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to promoting inclusivity and diversity.

Notes to Editors

  • The term “creative and cultural industries” refers to the creative industries and the cultural sector. This report focuses on four sub-sectors within the creative and cultural industries – design, fashion and crafts; museums and galleries; music, performing and visual arts; and film, TV, radio and photography.
  • Representation data is from the ONS Annual Population Survey, London, 2016.
  • Job growth numbers are from GLA Economics (July 2017). Working Paper 89 – London’s creative industries, 2017 update. Retrieved from: