Going backwards

Alistair Brown, 06.07.2015
Cuts are negatively affecting BAME employees
On my travels with the Museums Association (MA), I find that the overwhelming preoccupation of the museum sector is the issue of cuts.

Safeguarding jobs and institutions is top of the priority list for many – and a new set of statistics from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), covering the whole UK, shows why.

The creative industries employment figures show a drop of 7.2% in employment in museums, galleries and libraries between 2011-2014. This figure – which is only an estimate – would appear to tally with the MA's Cuts Survey 2014, which showed more than half of respondents saw a reduction in full-time staff over the preceding year, and over a third of respondents had cut staff numbers by more than 10%.

The headline figure from the DCMS statistics also masks huge regional differences, with the south-east and south-west staff figures holding up better than other regions. England also appears to suffer more than Scotland, with drops of 10.2% and 5.6% respectively over the 2011-14 period.

The drop in employment is particularly startling when set against the success of others in the creative industries. Only the craft industries have fared worse, with most creative industries registering substantial growth. The overall employment in the creative industries has grown by 15.8% since 2011, with design and IT sectors faring best.

The other interesting figure to note in all of this is the impact that austerity is having on the diversity of the sector.

The proportion of women in museums, galleries and libraries has shrunk somewhat, but at 61.3% women still represent the majority of the workforce.

Most notably, there has been a stark drop in the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees. There are now 11% fewer BAME employees than in 2011, nearly double the rate of decrease of white employees.

The progress made in terms of diversifying the workforce over the previous decade has not just stalled, but gone into reverse.

What can be done? Resilience and advocacy are the buzzwords of the moment – and for good reason. Only a two-pronged approach which sees the sector become more entrepreneurial and better at harnessing public support will stop the rot.

Follow Alistair on Twitter @acbrown511

Links and downloads

Creative Industries: 2015 Focus on

Cuts Survey 2014

Comments

Sort by: Most recent - Most liked
Liz Hide
MA Member
Museums Officer, University of Cambridge Museums
07.07.2015, 08:39
perhaps I've missed something, but I can't see the BAME figures your refer to in the DCMS report. Is there a larger dataset available somewhere, please?
Patrick Steel
MA Member
Website Editor, Museums Association
07.07.2015, 09:35
Hi Liz. The BAME figures aren't in the main report but in the appendix titled 'Focus on Employment detailed tables by Creative Industries group' (third link down on this page:https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/creative-industries-2015-focus-on) .

If you go to tab T9 'Ethnicity - Creative Industries' you can find the figure specific to BAME staff at museums, galleries and libraries. All best, Patrick
Liz Hide
MA Member
Museums Officer, University of Cambridge Museums
07.07.2015, 17:15
Thanks Patrick!

What those figures are saying is that there has been an 11% drop in BAME employment in the three years from 2011-2014, BUT they also say that there has been a 23% INCREASE in the most recent year of those three years, ie 2013-14. I am not in anyway advocating complacency about the diversity of the museums workforce. However, I think your article runs the risk of denying that the data shows a recent improvement, and we should recognise this, examine why it is so, and build on it. Museums have been working on some excellent initiatives - for example the Cultural Cooperation SOCL traineeships - and these should be celebrated and shared. This report, and the excellent work that Maurice and Lucy have done, is of enormous importance in informing our future work in the sector.
Maurice Davies
MA Member
Partner, Museum Consultancy
07.07.2015, 20:41
The figures are not at all precise, rounded to the nearest thousand, so it's not really appropriate for DCMS to give such "precise" percentages. That said, the general downwards trend since 2011 is probably more noteworthy than the apparent (but probably misleading) large increase in one year. I suspect many people from minority ethnic backgrounds, being relatively recently appointed, were on fixed term contracts, so more susceptible to losing their jobs than people who were on permanent contracts.
Anonymous
MA Member
15.07.2015, 17:21
I'm sure you're right on this. Sadly, I don't think being on a permanent contract makes much difference as to whether a post is cut or not. It hasn't seemed to make much of a difference at our institution. The key factor seems to be more whether the post is seen as 'core' or as some kind of 'add-on'. Outreach, youth engagement, administration, assistant curators - all these are seen as non-essential. It may be that diversity is too...
Liz Hide
MA Member
Museums Officer, University of Cambridge Museums
08.07.2015, 17:21
I'm keen to separate data from speculation here - so perhaps we should be aiming for some data collection to see if the 'apparent' increase really is misleading and/or short-term?
Maurice Davies
MA Member
Partner, Museum Consultancy
06.07.2015, 14:10
This informative blog makes grim reading, especially on ethnicity/race. As Lucy Shaw and I found, things weren't good before the cuts http://www.museumsassociation.org/download?id=171875

It's a shame that discussions of resilience don't often include diversity, when a varied range of staff and board members, from varied backgrounds, can be a key part of a thriving, imaginative organisation. AIM's new Hallmarks for Museums are disappointing in this regard, taking a rather old fashioned view of the components of successful museums. AIM forgot about sustainability too; I'm sure the MA won't forget either diversity or sustainability in its revision of the Code of Ethics!