Many museums, including the London Transport Museum, have developed apprenticeship schemes to help diversify the workforce. © TfL from the London Transport Museum collection

Arts sector dominated by the middle class, survey finds

Simon Stephens, 25.11.2015
Report paints a 'bleak picture' of social mobility in the arts
"The arts sector is a closed shop where most people are middle class," according to a survey published this week by Create, an organisation that explores the ways artists can contribute to the lives of people in cities.

The Panic! survey found that 76% of respondents working in the arts had at least one parent working in a managerial or professional job while they were growing up and that over half had at least one parent with a degree while growing up.

"When this is paired with the fact that nearly 90% of respondents had worked for free at some point in their career, the Panic! research paints a bleak picture that if young people don’t have parents that are able to support them in their pursuit of a creative career then it is extremely hard to break into the industry," the report says.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Those who earn more than £50,000 per annum are most likely to believe that they got there through hard work, talent and ambition. Those earning less than £5,000 per annum are most likely to believe that it’s about who you know, not what you know.
  • The majority of white people in the arts don’t acknowledge the barriers facing black, Asian and minority ethnic people trying to find a foothold in the sector.
  • Women are more likely than men to have worked in the arts sector for free and, once paid, are generally paid less than their male counterparts
In total, 2,539 people working in all core areas of the cultural industries contributed to the survey by way of an open call on in September and October 2015. 

Museums, galleries and libraries; performance and music; and visual arts were the best represented categories.

The Panic! survey, which was delivered in association with Goldsmiths, the University of London, the University of Sheffield and the London School of Economics is part of our wider project looking at social mobility in the arts.


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MA Member
27.11.2015, 21:23
Low pay, poor career progression outside larger museums and the constant drip drip of bad news about the sector means that the in-crowd are far more likely to take on the risks of working in the heritage sector than those outside.

I know it is obvious but the medical, legal, accountancy and other well-paid professions have far fewer problems recruiting BAME people. Just look at the exam results for these professions. There are a lot of other oppportunities out there which are economically more tempting. Heritage has never been well-paid but at the moment other creative parts of the economy are more appealing career wise.