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For what it's worth. What are the creative industries doing for the UK economy?

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'The Creative Industries' - it's a phrase we hear all the time, isn't it? But what exactly does it mean? Well, if you're a government statistician, it refers to : public relations and communication activities;  advertising agencies ; and media representation. Actually, they'd probably include design, architecture, fine art, theatre and music - but for their Creative Industries Economic Estimates 2014 document, which has just been published, they're using the first three as examples.

The figures in this publication are equally surprising, pleasing and significant. For instance, The Department Of Culture, Media and Sport (how can one department oversee graphic design and hockey, by the way?) suggests that one in twelve jobs will be provided by the creative industries in 2014. That's 2.55 million posts. Wow!

Perhaps more importantly, in this era of economic gloom and sinking pessimism, the DOCMS reports a 6% growth in 'creative' jobs in 2011/2012. This figure outperforms other sectors by 0.7%, so we're clearly doing something right.

With this in mind, it strikes me as both funny and frustrating, that a 'creative' role still isn't seen as a 'proper job', when the sector is thriving in such an obvious way. So often we hear some talking head, complaining that young people only want  to work in TV, advertising, PR or similar. But those critics are hopelessly out of touch, because it's clear these ambitions are not only realistic, they're pretty sensible.

It wasn't always this way. A hundred years ago, the UK was an industrial country. We made things and exported them. Steel, coal, textiles and tin all flowed freely from our ports, destined for every and any corner of the globe. London may have had its share of law firms, estate agencies and banks - but, on the whole, the rest of the country was a manufacturing power house. As recently as the 1970s, our pits whirred and heaved with frantic activity, and car plants like Dagneham and Leyland buzzed with productivity.

For better or worse, that all changed in the 1980s. The Thatcher administration, fiercely opposed to a unionised workforce and nationalised industries, cut and sold the factories, mines and warehouses on which the modern economy was built. As you'd imagine, we fell into recession.
However, from that slump, a new model grew. Generally known as a 'service' economy, we now thrive on intangible products: travel, finance, consultancy, IT and ... creativity.

Perhaps this shouldn't surprise us. For centuries, the UK has been a giant of the creative arts. From Benjamin Britten to Benjamin Zephaniah, Christopher Marlowe to Chris Martin - something in our cultural mix gives us an enviable tendency to produce exciting and original creative ideas. And that's before we've mentioned The Beatles, Shakespeare, Sex Pistols, David Hockney, David Bowie, JK Rowling, Pink Floyd, Monty Python,  Joy Division, Dylan Thomas, The Clash and Kate Bush.

More specifically, the world has always admired our advertising. It could be argued that the glory days of British ads are now behind us - nevertheless, even the mighty USA still recognises the superiority of our agencies.

This government document simply contains the numbers which prove something we've always known. We are a naturally creative people, in a naturally creative nation. Our creative industries are not only a vital part of our economic structure, in many ways they are its foundation. 
So the next time someone suggests you don't have a 'proper' job, you know what to tell them.

The Creative Industries Economic Estimates 2014 document can be read here.

Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, consultant and blogger

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