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New study of performing arts reveals ‘career penalty’ for parents and carers

The survey, conducted by Professor Almuth McDowall in partnership with Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PIPA), found that performing arts professionals with caring responsibilities earn £3,000 less a year than those without.

A new survey of workers and work-life balance in the performing arts reveals the industry disadvantages those with caring responsibilities through ‘caring penalties.’ Carers, women and freelancers finding it hard to make ends meet and fund childcare; overall carers earn £3,000 less a year than those who do not have such responsibilities.

The research, conducted by Professor Almuth McDowall from the Department of Organizational Psychology in partnership with Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PIPA), was launched at a parliamentary event hosted by Tracy Brabin MP. It found:

  • Freelance workers in the arts are vulnerable as they have to rely on their own resources and support structures in order to continue their careers. They report that their low earnings reportedly do not cover unexpected expenses, not surprising at median annual earnings of £16,000, far less than the UK average wage. The team also found that women earn on average 25% less than men, which is on par with other industry sectors.

  • 44% women had to change roles due to childcare responsibilities, compared to 23% of male carers; 50% of female carers had to change job location because of childcare issues, and 36% of male carers. Women with caring responsibilities were more likely to work part-time or freelance than women without caring responsibilities. There is no notable difference between the employment structure of men when comparing men with, and those without, caring responsibilities. Parents and carers report a career and salary sacrifice in order to fulfil caring responsibilities and are unable to access career opportunities as those working in the performing arts rely on other income to pursue their arts careers, and habitually give up performance work once they become parents. This is not out of choice; 43% of female carers would want to increase their working hours in the arts and 32% of working fathers if adequate childcare was available.

  • There is a lack of support and training opportunities for those who’ve had to change their job role. Of those who had changed roles, only 19% agreed that they received adequate training, and only 21% agreed that they received adequate support.

  • 79% of female respondents reported that they were the primary carer (i.e. responsible for more than 50% of the caring), but only 16% of male respondents would say the same. There is a high desire among freelance respondents for shared parental leave as 74% of men and 72% of women said they’d like to access shared parental leave if it was available.

  • The majority (54%) of survey respondent were freelancers which is reflective of the industry’s high proportion of the freelance workforce.

  • Only 29% of carers responding to the survey were in full-time employment compared to 45% of non-carers.  

The research team stress that their findings should not be seen as a one-off, but warrant following up on an annual basis to gather industry-specific data on the performing arts and monitor equal opportunities to benchmark progress.

The survey was funded by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, Help Musicians UK, Sadler’s Wells and SOLT/ UK Theatre.

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