Working class under-represented in curator and archivist roles

Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre finds class disparities in creative jobs
Equality Inclusion
Jonathan Knott
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Bones of Paine 2019 Procession, a collaboration between outdoor arts experts Walk the Plank and the Working Class Movement Library. Image by Chris Payne.
Bones of Paine 2019 Procession, a collaboration between outdoor arts experts Walk the Plank and the Working Class Movement Library. Image by Chris Payne.

A report from the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) found that about a fifth of people in these jobs in the UK are from working class backgrounds, compared to about a third of people across all occupations.

People from working class backgrounds are under-represented in curator, archivist and librarian jobs, new research has found.

There was an even lower proportion of working class people (16%) across all creative occupations. The research used a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) definition that identifies 30 creative job categories including roles in advertising, IT, film and performing arts.

The report says people from privileged backgrounds are “more than twice as likely to end up in creative occupations than their working-class peers”.

More than half (52%) of people in creative occupations were from privileged backgrounds, compared to 37% across all occupations.

The researchers used the occupation of people’s parents when they were fourteen to define their class background, dividing people into working class, intermediate and privileged groups.

Craft was the only creative sector with no class imbalance, while disparities based on background were most pronounced in architecture and publishing. In 2019, 12% and 13% respectively of people in these fields were from working class backgrounds, compared to 50% and 58% with privileged backgrounds.

Across all creative jobs, working class people were more than 10% less likely than those from privileged backgrounds to be managers, or to have supervisory responsibility.

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The research finds that the proportion of people in the creative industries from poorer backgrounds has remained largely unchanged in recent years. In 2014, 17.6% of people in creative jobs were working class, compared to 16.2% now.

The report says that class interacts with other factors such as gender, ethnicity and disability to create a “double disadvantage” for some people.

Dave O’Brien, one of the authors of the report, posted on Twitter: “Overall, the takeaway from this new analysis is that the cultural and creative industries have a class crisis and it’s not going away.”

https://twitter.com/DrDaveOBrien/status/1298900151961092096

The PEC plans to publish further policy reviews on class in the creative industries. It is inviting stakeholders from government and the creative sector to work with it to “collectively drive significant and sustained change”.

The report says that 20% of archivists, librarians and curators were from working class backgrounds in 2016 and 23% in 2017. There is no data for these jobs in other years because of low sample sizes.

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