Full-time earnings for permanent staff working in the arts and culture sector have increased by 10.5% since 2018 representing a real terms pay freeze in light of inflation levels.
Initial findings from the ArtsPay Survey 2022 show that the median permanent full-time salary on 31 March this year was £34,000, a £3,225 or 10.5% increase on the figure recorded for the ArtsPay Survey 2018.
According to the inflation measure used by the Office for National Statistics – the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) – inflation between 2018 and the end of March this year ran at 10.85%, representing a “real-terms” pay freeze over the period.
Part-time workers fared worse, experiencing a real-terms pay reduction of nearly 4% during a four-year period that saw the UK leave the European Union and experience the impact of a global pandemic.
The survey found that the median full-time equivalent salary for part-time workers was £30,000 This compares with a median of £28,000 in 2018 – a 7% increase over the period but a real terms decrease of 3.85%.
Inflation has continued to rise in recent months with the CPIH measure increasing by 2.1% in April, 0.6% in May, and 0.7% last month.
Rising household costs
A number of respondents said they rely on the income of a partner to pay household bills.
“I probably wouldn’t be able to continue to work in the arts if it wasn’t for the fact that my partner has a much better paid job, three times my salary, in another sector,” one respondent said.
“The cost of childcare is astronomical and if I was a single parent, with only one income, it would not be worth me working on my current salary.”
Another said: “I am in a position where my partner earns a higher salary than me so rising household costs during this crisis do not affect us as much as a lot of people.
“In one sense I feel lucky to be in this situation, but it does raise issues and causes its own problems. I feel strongly that people working in the arts should not need to rely on other earners in their household in order to keep up with living costs.”
One respondent said they have not had a pay increase in three years, due to Covid and working for an “underfunded” organisation.
“I have sacrificed my own pay in order to increase the pay of other workers as I believe they are underpaid. Difficult to increase pay at all on project funding,” they said.
Some respondents said they are considering leaving the sector.
“I’m looking to leave the arts sector as the pay doesn’t increase with the rise in inflation,” a respondent said.
“How can the arts survive if the people who work within the arts struggle to survive financially? Also, trying to find a job that is flexible around life commitments is difficult in the arts.
“Pay and benefits do not reflect the level of experience and education I have. What is the point in sticking around? Life shouldn’t be so difficult.”
Freelancers were the only group to experience a real-terms rise in earnings. For respondents who receive 90% or more of their freelance income from the arts, the median earnings were £19,797. This compares with median earnings of £16,000 in 2018, a 23.7% increase, or 12.85% adjusted for inflation.
However, not all freelancers have experienced increases to their income.
“I have not increased my rates since 2004 and am increasingly asked to lower them since Covid,” one respondent said.
“I have encountered some brilliant and supportive practice from some clients and also some shocking practice. For example, I was offered a contract on the basis of a costed tender and later asked to halve my fee.”
Another said: “I’m very lucky to have had a supportive partner at home who has shouldered the burden of bill-paying over the past year in order for me to build my freelance career and found a new arts organisation.”
Overall, a total of 1,493 people completed the survey – with around half (52.8%) of respondents being full-time employees.
Detailed examination of the responses will be conducted over the coming weeks to look at a range of issues including the gender and diversity pay gaps, as well as career progression.
ArtsProfessional Editor Ruth Hogarth said: “Many thanks to everyone who has taken part in the ArtsPay Survey 2022. Your participation in this longitudinal study enables us to track and report on sector salaries with confidence. The full report will be published in September.”