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Ongoing insecurity seems to be driving an increase in fixed term contracts, as staff demand more pay and flexibility.

Increases in diversity are "a welcome change", though the quality and quantity of job applications is falling

British Council

Difficulties recruiting to arts roles are prompting claims of a "great resignation" from the sector.

Arts professionals say there are more jobs going than applicants to fill them, with an alarming degree of turnover not seen before the pandemic.

It appears the pool of experienced staff is shrinking: 79% told us they're having difficulty filling senior roles compared to 71% in September; for mid level roles, 75% cited difficulty, up from 71%. There is an emerging dearth of skilled freelancers too, according to nearly half (45%) of respondents to our latest survey.


Nearly 78% said it's harder to recruit now than before the pandemic, up 7 points on September.

"There seems to be a whole section or level of suitable people missing in the arts sector right now," one respondent commented.

Office for National Statistics data show a slight contraction in arts job opportunities at the end of 2021 after seven months' growth.

There were 33,000 sector jobs posted between October and December, twice as many vacancies as the same period pre-pandemic.

We've continued to see record numbers of jobs on our site since reporting a surge of vacancies in the sector. Listings have grown another 3.5% in the past six months.

We're not the only ones noticing a change: When career support organisation Creative Access surveyed its members, 51% said they'd applied for a new job and 39% had started a new role since July.

The Arts Marketing Association saw a 103% increase in fixed term contracts in the past year compared to 2018/19, which "suggests organisations lack confidence in their ability to provide long-term posts and job security," CEO Cath Hume said.

This could be an issue as the sector rebuilds, she added. 

"The pandemic is still in effect, so to attract new people at what can feel like an unstable time, the offer has to be compelling... you have to ask yourself, how attractive are fixed term or freelance contracts to those currently in permanent contracts? 

"A stable sector needs job security, it needs to attract the right talent to the right roles, and it needs to treat its people fairly."

Lifestyle change

New staff are demanding higher pay and more flexible working conditions than before the pandemic, leading to imbalances in some organisations.

Specialists recruiters say they are fishing in a smaller pond. It means qualified candidates (and sometimes less qualified ones) are demanding bigger salaries, though arts organisations, still fighting their way back to financial health, are hard pressed to supply them.

"This would all be fine if our income from grants and other sources was able to grow at the same level," one person commented.

Some organisations have been unable to recruit at all, either because they can't find the right people or can't afford them. 

Anecdotally, comparatively low pay is pushing professionals with transferrable skills towards other sectors. Fundraising and technical roles have become especially hard to fill, though we've heard concerns about hiring at all levels from entry to executive positions. 

A change in lifestyle may be contributing to the shift. Nearly two thirds (61%) of Creative Access members say improving their mental wellbeing is their top priority in 2022, and in a snap survey last month, 96% said a four-day work week would be good for their career.

But above all else, security is the main concern. As living costs rise, arts workers say they are forced to consider more stable options.

"I need to change job; however there have been hardly any senior vacancies in the past six months or the salaries of vacancies are far too low," one professional told us.

"I have decided to change sector after 15 years working in the cultural sector... Such a shame but I do not see any other solutions."

Diversity drive

Some see the opportunity to diversify as a silver lining of the high rate of turnover.

There has been "a welcome culture change" in some organisations as an exodus of senior leaders in the middle of 2021 opened doors to a less homogenous cohort.

Not everyone feels that way though, with two-thirds of survey respondents agreed the loss of leaders is damaging to the sector.

What's more, the quality and quantity of applications is falling. 61% believe job applicants lack diversity, an increase since our September survey.

In the words of one respondent: "Yes it's led to less experienced people applying for the roles, but this is refreshing and helps with diversifying the work force and bringing about much needed change."

It's possible the drives to improve diversity and inclusion in the sector is contributing to hiring difficulties.

One recruiter told us that two qualified candidates didn't apply for a recent role because they didn't think they would meet diversity targets: "Reassurance did little to assuage the matter."

Arts Professional welcomes readers' opinions. Please ensure your comments observe our policy.


We're saying 61% believe the applicants they have are lacking in diversity; we didn't ask whether they wanted more diverse candidates.

Thanks for that. The way it's expressed makes it sound like you are inverting a clearer understanding of the issue. I'm not saying that this was your intention - I imagine you are just trying to represent the survey. However, if employers and recruiters believe that they are 'lacking' diversity in their applicants, the power to make the necessary changes to attract more diverse candidates is within their hands. The language of deficit (e.g. lack) can't be laid at the applicants door, surely?