Staggering 87 percent drop in advertised arts jobs, as COVID-19 decimates the industry

21 August 2020, 15:52

The creative industries, including music, theatre, visual arts and film production have been hardest hit by coronavirus in the UK.
The creative industries, including music, theatre, visual arts and film production have been hardest hit by coronavirus in the UK. Picture: Getty

By Rosie Pentreath

The coronavirus crisis has hit the arts sector harder than any other, according to research from the Office for National Statistics.

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has ravaged the arts and entertainment industry more than any other in the UK, research shows.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that job opportunities in the arts fell faster in May, June and July than in any other sector in the UK, with advertised roles disappearing by 87 percent compared with the same period last year.

The staggering decline is illustrated by there being just 3,000 vacancies available in that period – down from 23,000 for the same time last year.

Read more: ‘On the brink of devastation’: UK creative industries projected to lose 400,000 jobs >

“The arts and culture sector was growing twice as fast as the overall economy before the crisis, but now this sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic,” says Philippa Childs, who is head of the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU).

Reacting the the ONS’s recent findings, she describes the sector as being “on its knees” with “huge numbers of job losses, tens of thousands of freelancers with no support, and large swathes of the sector still in the dark about when they can reopen.”

Read more: Arts world warns of ‘exodus of talent’ from creative industries due to coronavirus >

While job vacancies are down, the sector has also been hit hard by thousands of proposed redundancies already, with organisations like the Southbank Centre and the Tate having announced big job cuts.

The ending of the furlough scheme by October is a further worrying factor, and leaders in the sector have also called for more support for freelancers, who make up a significant portion of workers on top of the advertised positions. An open letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, signed by the likes of London Symphony Orchestra, Glyndebourne and Guildhall School Music and Drama, has warned of an ‘exodus of talent’ due to the struggles the industry is facing.

BECTU’s Childs confirms: “The government’s cultural recovery fund is welcome, but we are concerned that the focus is on helping institutions to survive, rather than on protecting the staff and freelancers who are the backbone of the sector.

“Ministers need to look again at the scheme or risk permanently damaging our world beating culture sector.”