Chapter 1: London's creative and cultural industries

Culture Club: Social mobility in the creative and cultural industries

Chapter 1: London's creative and cultural industries

This chapter highlights the growing importance of creative and cultural industries within London’s economy, and looks at how representative of London’s population these industries, and their senior management, are.

The creative and cultural industries in London

The creative and cultural industries are a significant contributor to London’s economy: analysis by the Greater London Authority (GLA) estimated that in 2015 the economic output (GVA) of the creative industries was £42 billion – an increase of 38 per cent in nominal terms since 2009. 5 London accounts for more than 40 per cent of creative sector employment in the United Kingdom, and a third of all its businesses in that sector. 6

A key characteristic of the creative and cultural industries is that the majority of employment in London is located in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – a much larger proportion than in other sectors.

Since 2012, the number of jobs in the creative sector (see Figure 1) and cultural industries has increased by 24 per cent, bringing the total number of jobs to over 880,000 in 2016. 7 Furthermore, and despite perceptions of low pay, people working in the creative and cultural industries receive relatively high earnings, with a gross median hourly pay for employees of £19.52 in 2016 – 23 per cent higher than in other industries. However, this value should be treated with caution: when broken down by sub-sector in 2016, the highest median pay in the industry came from “film, TV, radio and photography”, at £21.77, while the lowest came from “crafts; design; product, graphic and fashion design”, at £15.34.

Nonetheless, there is job growth in the sector, and this is likely to continue in the future. While in the foreseeable future around one-third of London’s jobs could be automated, 8 the creative and cultural industries is likely to be one of the most resilient. Centre for London research estimated a 24 per cent potential for jobs within the Arts, Entertainment and Recreation sector to be automated within the next 20 years – compared to the Wholesale & Retail and Transportation & Storage sectors, which have a 60 and 63 per cent potential respectively  9 Further research by Nesta shows that occupations categorised as highly creative – artists, musicians, designers, actors – are not at high risk of automation. 10

Underrepresentation in the creative and cultural industries

The discourse of the “creative city” emerged in the 2000s, promoting the idea of a thriving creative sector as one of the keys to economic revival in cities. 11 And in 2016, when Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP was Minister of State for the creative industries, he called the arts “one of the greatest forces for openness and social mobility”. 12 Nonetheless, other research suggests that cultural labour markets tend to be dominated by white men from relatively privileged backgrounds. 13 To assess this claim’s accuracy for the terms of this report, we review data below from the creative industries and four sub-sectors which represent their more “cultural” aspects (design and fashion; museums and galleries; music, performing and visual arts; and film, TV, radio and photography).

We focus on class, gender, race and ethnicity,which significantly affect social differentiation and inequality, particularly where they intersect. 14 Gender, race and ethnicity are considered when thinking about organisational diversity 15(along with age): however, social class is often excluded entirely from discussions around diversity, as there is no UK legislative imperative to consider it as a source of disadvantage. 16 However, it may be a strong determinant of the ease with which an individual can expect to enter and gain a foothold in the creative and cultural industries. 17


There continues to be a higher percentage of males than females in the creative economy, particularly in senior managerial professional occupations (Table 1). This percentage is also higher than in industries outside the creative economy. Additionally, there is a greater representation of women in mid-to lower-skilled
positions. The data in Figure 2 suggests that there is a gender glass ceiling effect – i.e. a halt in advancement into a higher position for women. Although this glass
ceiling also exists in other sectors, in the creative and cultural industries the ceiling applies more clearly for professional and intermediate positions.


London’s Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups make up 40 per cent of the population, 18 but BAME employees are underrepresented in the creative and
cultural industries. In 2016 they represented around 23 per cent of the sector compared to 36 per cent of the total London workforce (see Figure 3). The glass
ceiling effect experienced by female employees in the creative industries also applies to BAME employees, where the majority – 32 per cent – are employed in
lower-skilled occupations in comparison to senior roles (Figure 4). Furthermore, recent release of statistics in the television industry have demonstrated that BAME employees earn on average 16 per cent less than their white counterparts, with the average annual bonus gap reaching 66 per cent. 19

Social class

At a national level there are concerns over the lack of representation of employees from working class backgrounds in the cultural and creative industries. For example, recent data within the television industry indicates that 60 per cent of employees have parents who work in professional or managerial positions; very low numbers of staff identify as coming from a working class background. Channel 4’s working class employees, for instance, only make up nine per cent of its workforce. 20 Analysis conducted by the GLA also found an imbalance between employees from different socioeconomic groups in the creative economy. 95 per cent of employees were categorised as coming from a more advantaged background, compared to five per cent from less advantaged backgrounds. 21 Further academic research has shown that in the UK, working class employees make up 18 per cent of the music, performing and visual arts sector and 12 per cent of the film, TV and radio sector – yet represent 35 per
cent of the UK population. By contrast, 28 per cent in music, performing and visual arts and 26 per cent in film, TV and radio come from privileged backgrounds – yet represent only 14 per cent of the population. 22

At a London level, the same study found that those employed in the capital’s creative and cultural industries tend to come from significantly more privileged backgrounds. While around 45 per cent of those working in the creative and cultural industries outside London are from professional or managerial backgrounds, in London it is over 60 per cent. The class pay gap is also larger in 24 London, with those from working class backgrounds earning on average only 85 per cent of what those from higher professional and managerial backgrounds earn; elsewhere the same figure is 90 per cent. 9

The Creative Industries Federation has argued that organisational diversity means having a workforce that represents the communities where organisations operate – and, by extension, their potential audience. 24 Although the creative and cultural industries is thriving in London, London is failing on representation, particularly at senior levels – and the sector remains inaccessible to some groups, especially problematic given that it can offer well paid, fulfilling and future-proof careers. Furthermore, although cultural sector data does not always distinguish between cultural administration jobs and cultural production jobs, there is often evidence of a glass wall as well as a glass ceiling, for example in the case of women being overrepresented in administrative jobs in culture. 25 The next chapters will look at how entrance into and progression through the creative and cultural industries’ sub-sectors continues to be exclusive.

Participants from digital content production, visual storytelling and creative media campaigning immersion courses: Create Jobs
Participants from digital content production, visual storytelling and creative media campaigning immersion courses: Create Jobs Ketishia Vaughan
  • 5 GLA Economics (July 2017). Working Paper 89 – London’s creative industries, 2017 update. Retrieved from: https:// industries_-_2017_update.pdf
  • 6 Mateos-Garcia, J. & Bakhshi, H. (2016). Geography of creativity in the UK. London: NESTA.
  • 7 GLA Economics (July 2017), op. cit.
  • 8 Brown, R. & Kulka, B. (2018). Human Capital: The Challenges and Opportunities of London’s Changing Workforce. London: Centre for London.
  • 9 Ibid.
  • 10 Bakhshi, N., Benedikt Frey, C. & Osborne, M. (2015). Creativity vs Robots: The Creative Economy and the Future of Employment. London: NESTA.
  • 11 Florida, R. (2005). Cities and the Creative Class. London: Routledge.
  • 12 Hancock, M. (2016, November 18). op. cit.
  • 13 O’Brien, D., Laurison, D., Miles, A. & Friedman, S. (2016, April 12). Are the creative industries meritocratic? An analysis of the 2014 British Labour Force Survey. Cultural Trends, 15(2).
  • 14 Meisenhelder, T. (2000). Towards a Field Theory of Class, Gender and Race. Race, Gender and Class, 7(2).
  • 15 Randle, K., Forson, C. & Calveley, M. (2015). Towards a Bourdieusian analysis of the social composition of the UK film and television workforce. Work, Employment and Society, 29(4).
  • 16 The Equality Act protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
  • 17 Randle et al (2015), op, cit.
  • 18 Office for National Statistics (ONS) Census 2011.
  • 19 ITN (2018). BAME Pay Gap Report. Retrieved from: Report-2018.pdf
  • 20 Waterson, J. (2018, August 22). Channel 4 is industry’s poshest broadcaster, study finds. The Guardian. Retrieved from: 4-britain-poshest-broadcaster-diversity-study-finds-staffworking- class-background
  • 21 GLA Economics (2017), op. cit.
  • 22 Oakley, K., Laurison, D., O’Brien, D., & Friedman, S. (2017). Cultural capital: Arts graduates, spatial inequality, and London’s impact on cultural labor markets. American Behavioral Scientist, 61(12).
  • 23 Ibid.
  • 24 Creative Industries Federation (2015). Creative Diversity. London: Creative Industries Federation.
  • 25 Culture Action Europe (2016). Gender inequalities in the cultural sector. Retrieved from: https://cultureactioneurope. org/files/2016/05/Gender-Inequalities-in-the-Cultural-Sector. pdf