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Concerns raised over ''lack of support" for working class people in the arts as figures show they earn less than peers from higher socioeconomic backgrounds.

People working in arts and culture earn less if they come from working or lower class backgrounds, analysis of Arts Professional's pay survey suggests.

Data collated from the ArtsPay Survey 2022 show that across early, mid and late-career age ranges, those who grew up in higher socioeconomic backgrounds tend to be paid more in full time roles. 

Respondents to the survey raised concerns that there is a "lack of support" in the sector for people from working class backgrounds, and "excludes those without the resources to establish themselves".


Analysis of the data shows that while the median salary for under-34s in full time positions in the sector is £27,000, for those whose primary earner in the household when they were 14 was a senior manager or administrator (such as a finance manager or chief executive) the median salary was £29,923 - 10.8% higher.

And for those whose primary household earner when they were 14 was a modern professional - such as a teacher, social worker, artist, musician or software designer - the median salary was £28,000 - 3.7% higher.

Conversely, those for whom the primary earner had been in a routine manual or service occupation - such as a van driver, cleaner or waiter - the median was £23,500, 13% lower than the overall median.

For those who had a semi-routine manual or service occupation (such as a postal worker, security guard or sales assistant) the mean salary was £23,656.  And those whose parents didn't, or had never worked when they were 14 had a median salary of £24,000 - 11.2% lower than the overall median. 

One respondent in the under-34 age group and for whom the main earner was not working when they were 14, said pay in the arts "continues to be a sufferance for doing a job with value". 

"Our profession still excludes those without the resources to establish themselves, whether that is an education, well-off parents, or access to cheap accommodation or industry connections," they said.

"If we are to effect the positive change of which we know the arts is capable then we must remedy these issues and bring a broader range of people into both arts practice and management."

Overall there was difference of £6,423 between the highest and lowest paid according to socioeconomic background.

Mid career salaries

Differences in pay levels based on socioeconomic background extend to the 35 to 54-year-old age range - those born between 1968 and 1987 - for whom the median salary for full time roles was £36,777.

For this age group, those from a clerical or intermediate family background - such as a secretary, nursery nurse or office clerk - were at the top of the scale for median earnings at £40,000 a year - 8.7% above the overall median.

Meanwhile, the median salary for respondents in this age range for who the main earner in their household when they were 14 was a traditional professional - such as accountant or medical practitioner - was £38,000.

However, for those from families where the main earner was unemployed or never worked the median salary was £35,000. 

One person in this category said: "Working in the arts is supposedly a labour of love. But I should never have tried to forge a career in the sector which does not recompense staff for the amount of work undertaken, and is not in line with other sectors which require the same amount of work, or supports working class people and understands that they do not have savings/families/inheritance to fall back on.  

"The cost of living crisis will cripple arts workers, who are already overworked and underpaid for what they do.

And for those from a semi-routine manual or service occupation the median is £34,000.

"As someone who identifies as being from a lower/working class family, on Free School Meals and experiencing child poverty, I always feel like I'm on 'the back foot' compared to my peers who grew up in more financially stable families," one person from this category said. 

"Even though I know I am more fortunate than most with my salary, and am in a relatively senior position, I still have to run a small arts/education business on top of my full-time role to be able to afford any luxuries such as holidays, house improvements, etc. 

"My main salary covers mortgage, car and bills - with very little left at the end of the month. 

"I work six days a week plus evenings to balance it all at the age of 40+.  I have no savings/inheritance and have never been able to take time out to travel or for a sabbatical. I have had to work very hard, full time and non-stop since graduating.  

"I love my work and wouldn't change what I do. But I would love to be in the position of being able to work slightly fewer hours, or just work one job rather than two. I think this highlights how hard it is for people from less affluent backgrounds (women especially) to reach financial stability working in the arts sector."