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ArtsPay survey findings suggest workers in the capital are not being paid enough to cover the costs of living in London.

Entry-level arts workers in London may not be earning enough to cover the expense of living in the capital, with concerns raised over low pay in comparison to higher costs, analysis of the ArtsPay survey suggests.

ArtsPay data found, unsurprisingly, arts workers in London have the highest average salaries in the country. The median full-time salary of the 300 respondents working in the capital was £35,438, compared with £32,500 from 507 respondents living in the rest of England.

But the difference suggests London workers are not receiving enough to offset the added expense of living in the capital.


Recent research from Trust for London and Loughborough University calculated the minimum London weighting required to cover a basic standard of living in the capital is £6,549.

But ArtsPay data shows that arts workers in entry-level roles in London earned £3,315 more than their peers in the rest of England, suggesting they are most likely to struggle to finance living in London.

  London Rest of England Difference
Entry level roles £24,903 £21,588 £3,315
Medium level roles £34,925 £28,500 £6,425
Senior level roles £47,250 £42,571 £4,679

The 54 entry level or early career workers living in London who took part in the survey had a median salary of £24,903. 

Although this is higher than the annual figure for someone working on the London Living Wage – an £11.95 hourly wage would make around £23,200 – some survey respondents said they feel they are being priced out of the capital.

One respondent said salaries at their level had remained “pretty much stagnant since I moved to London over a decade ago”. 

“I have increased the amount of freelance work I undertake alongside two part time jobs. I now work more than full-time equivalent and it's unsustainable.  The gap between senior staff pay and the rest of us is too large.”

The median salary for medium-level career workers in London was £34,925 (154 respondents) compared to £47,250 for those in senior roles (92 respondents). According to 2021 figures from Statista, the median annual earning for all full-time employees in London was £39,716.

Respondents also raised concerns that low levels of pay at entry level in London are impacting diversity levels in the sector.

One said it's “near impossible” to start a career in London “unless you have family to stay with or a trust fund”.

“Organisations are offering the same salaries and benefits as they were 10-15 years ago, which is a massive red flag for the sector. How can we diversify the workforce and voices in the arts, when the pay (especially at entry level jobs) doesn't cover living costs?” they added.

Another respondent commented: “So many arts jobs particularly in London are so low-paid they must only be feasible for those who don't need to earn a living. No wonder diversity in the sector is lamentable...”

Degree educated but unable to save

The majority of under-34s said they are unable to save for the future on their wage, despite almost all being degree educated.
Of the 308 under-34s responding to the ArtsPay survey, only 5 (1.6%) did not have a degree, compared to 5.8% of 35- to 54-year-olds and 7.4% of 55- to 64-year-olds. 

These figures suggest a disproportionate proportion of arts workers are degree holders. OECD statistics from 2021 found 26.4% of 25- to 64-year-olds in the UK had attained a bachelor's degree or equivalent.

Despite almost all holding a degree, 58% of under-34s said they will not be able to afford to save in the next 12 months, compared with 56% of all respondents.

Some mentioned concerns that university debt is impacting their ability to save.

“I feel I will never recover from the debt I accrued while studying for an MA over 15 years ago,” one said.

“My pay will not increase unless I move organisations into a leadership role which is unlikely. There is no encouragement or development support as it is believed there are no jobs to move into anyway.”

Elsewhere in the UK

The ArtsPay survey received fewer than 100 responses from workers in each individual region outside London, which ArtsProfessional considered the threshold for statistical confidence.

However, findings suggest pay levels were higher or in line with most regional averages.

Only Scotland and South East England had medium ArtsPay salaries lower than the regional average, by 2.2% and 5.4% respectively.

Some workers living in other UK regions reported similar concerns about pay to those living in the capital, suggesting that London weighting is disproportionate to the issues faced across the country.

One said the discrepancy between London and regional wages for the same job “should be bridged to ensure that talent is distributed more widely across the UK”.

Another said: “The inbalance of salaries in London [compared] with the rest of the country in the arts is just ridiculous. The prices are exactly the same for food and bills, even sometimes rent as well, so the huge discrepancy in salaries doesn't make any sense.”