When people ask me what I do for a living, I often simply reply; “I write.” This response is often met either by furrowed brows, genuine interest or complete surprise, as it would appear that to some people, the concept of actually making a living from the creative sector is rather alien. In many ways I don't blame them, as it must feel quite disheartening to learn that, whilst they're slaving away in an office or on a building site, I spend my week days sat in my comfortable home office, a mere 30 second commute from my bed. Indeed, any derision I encounter generally stems from people assuming I spend my working days (and nights, for I am something of a night creature) wallowing around in my pyjamas, fuelled by an endless supply of tea and biscuits. In actual fact, I put in at least 10 hours a day in the working week, and do so (generally) whilst dressed comfortably, but professionally. Accept for Thursdays. Thursdays actually ARE pyjama days.
Jobs within the creative sector have risen by 5.5% between 2013 and 2014 according to the UK Government
But the creative sector (of which I am a proud member, and includes TV, film, video, radio, publishing, advertising, marketing, music and performing arts) is not to be scoffed at, not by snooty acquaintances, and certainly not by the government, who released figures this week that show employment within the creative sector of the UK is increasing at more than twice the rate of the rest of the region’s economy. This goes against the generally assumed 'logic' that we should be focusing our future on the 'core' principals of science and mathematics, a logic supposedly backed by the educational system. But figures don't lie (there's some mathematical logic for you), and the figures show that jobs within the creative sector have risen by 5.5% between 2013 and 2014, compared to an average national increase of just 2.1%. This means that employment in the sector is increasing at more than twice the rate of the wider UK economy, and there are now 1.8 million people working in the sector, marking a 15.8% rise since 2011.
A full report issued by the Department for Culture Media and Sport breaks down findings by geographical region, level of qualification, gender and ethnicity. Design, which is listed rather derisively as “Product, graphic and fashion,” has the lead on other creative industries in terms of job increases, with an increase of 28.4% between 2011 and 2014. Regionally, meanwhile, the fastest growing areas are the North West, West Midlands and South West, where employment has risen by more than 20% in the last three years. A more worrying trend noted in the findings, however, is that there is still a lack of representation for women in the creative sector as a whole. Between 2011-2014 the number of men employed in the creative industries has gone up by 18.6% versus the number of women, which has gone up by 11.2%.
Employment in the creative sector is increasing at more than twice the rate of the wider UK economy
The design sector alone over the same period, however, has been more gender neutral, with a male employee increase by 35% and female by 31.8%. The research released by the DCMS also points to exports in the UK creative sector increasing. In 2013 they were worth £17.9bn and they have increased by 3.5% (£0.6bn) between 2012-2013 and by 34.2% since 2009 (£4.6bn). Design Council chief executive John Mathers welcomed the report, but said: “A substantial amount of design’s contribution is not being accounted for when estimating the value of design. The figures released only cover exports of services, not goods, this has led to design’s contribution to the UK being undervalued.”
Creative England CEO Caroline Norbury also called the employment and export figures “Great news,” but warned that the sector currently doesn't truly reflect the diversity of the UK. What she's referring to, is the findings that 92% of jobs in the creative sector were taken by people “In more advantaged socio-economic groups.” Norbury admits that it's difficult for those from a less advantaged background to get a foothold in the sector. She said “It's incredibly difficult unless you've got family and friends working there already or can support yourself financially, because so many of the entrants coming into the industry may have to work for free initially.” She added: “I don't think there's an active discrimination by the industry but the way the industry works, you need to have access to networks and if you don't know the ways of navigating that landscape, it's not enough sometimes that you have the talent.”
Creative England CEO Caroline Norbury called the figures “Great news,” but warned that the sector currently doesn't truly reflect the diversity of the UK
Still, I personally find the figures encouraging, and hope that they will inspire those who were perhaps tentative about aspiring to a job in the creative sector to take that leap. Whilst she might seem a little callous about it all, Norbury also said: “It's very interesting that the creative sector is becoming such a driver, and yet people are still so sceptical about it,” adding that she feels “There's a mismatch between the facts and the common parlance,” and believes (as I do), that the fuel for success in the sector “Is a really great arts curriculum.” UK culture secretary John Whittingdale summed the situation up admirably: “These latest figures demonstrate how the UK’s creative industries continue to be one of our great success stories.” And this is one story I look forward to watching grow and unfold over the next few years. If you want to take a gander at the full report yourself, meanwhile, you can download it in full RIGHT HERE.
Back in April, Creativepool also conducted our annual report on the changes from 2014-2015 on creative sector salaries throughout the country and parts of Europe. Our Salary Guide and Survey, gives insight into the growth based on location, education, gender and a variety of other factors. Click here to read the full Report.
Top Image: Daily Moods - Anca Asmarandei
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.