Culture Club: Social mobility in the creative and cultural industries

London's creative and cultural industries lead the world. This report looks at the barriers young people face to getting jobs and training in the sector, and identifies ways to ensure the industry benefits from the city’s diversity of talent.

London’s creative sector has failed to diversify its workforce, despite significant job growth since 2012. This report finds that class and ethnicity can 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.

Removing the barriers to entry

Our focus groups with young people identified a number of barriers that lock many out of London’s creative sector. These include:

  • Being unable to afford unpaid internships
  • Being ill-equipped to adapt to unstructured career paths like freelance working
  • Not knowing the right people

“It’s not about how talented you are, it’s about who you know and how you know them.”

Many cultural institutions recognise that the sector needs to change, but more needs to be done to ensure all businesses follow their lead.

“No one would go unpaid in a construction company… Our industry is like,”Why would we pay for someone when we can get them for free?” That’s ridiculous and needs to change.”

Key recommendations include:

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 by young people belonging to underrepresented groups. Though some local initiatives currently exist, these should be implemented across London.

Amending recruitment practices

The creative and cultural employers, and universities and colleges offering relevant courses, should amend recruitment practices to focus on creative talent, potential, and measurable skills such as team playing, rather than focusing on academic achievement – which can reflect background as much as ability.


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.