Social mobility in the creative economy: Rebuilding and levelling up?

09 September 2021

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Heather Carey, 

Heather Carey

Director of Work Advance

Heather Carey is Director of Work Advance, where s...

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​Dr Dave O’Brien, 

​Dr Dave O’Brien

Professor of Cultural and Creative Industries at The School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at The University of Manchester

Dr Dave O’Brien is Chancellor's Fellow in Cultural...

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Dr Olivia Gable

Dr Olivia Gable

Policy Analyst at the Work Foundation

Olivia Gable is a Policy Analyst at the Work Found...

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This report concludes phase 2 of the PEC’s 'Class in the Creative Industries' programme. Led by PEC researchers at Work Advance, the University of Edinburgh, and the Work Foundation, and co-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the research provides definitive evidence on the causes of class imbalances and sets out an ambitious and wide-ranging programme of change to enhance social mobility into Creative roles.

Download the Executive Summary

The research is part of a three-year programme, led by the PEC, working in partnership with the Social Mobility Commission and Creative Industries Federation, exploring class in the Creative Industries.

This phase of the work has sought to build on the existing evidence base, reviewing both academic and grey literature and interrogating secondary data sources, such as the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey and DCMS’ Taking Part Survey, to better understand the causes of class-based disadvantage in the Creative Industries.

Alongside this, the PEC research team embarked on a nine-month inquiry, entailing over 150 interviews with stakeholders, businesses and workers in four ‘in-focus’ sectors – Advertising, Fashion, Publishing and Screen – to understand industry perspectives and explore lived experience of class-based disadvantage in the creative sector.

The report outlines why the sector needs to sharpen its focus on socio-economic diversity; what to prioritise in order to tackle class-based disadvantage across the life-course; and how – through significant, systemic and sustained action – Government, industry and educators can work together to seize this moment, as we emerge from an unprecedented crisis, to address long-standing inequalities in the sector.

The research concludes by outlining a substantial and ambitious ten-year, ten-point plan to enhance socio-economic diversity in the Creative Economy. 

The findings will be presented at a virtual event, being hosted by the Social Mobility Commission, on 11th October 2021 at 1:00pm. Find out more about the event and register

Please reference this paper as:

Carey, H., O’Brien, D., and Gable, O. (2021) Social Mobility in the Creative Economy: Rebuilding and levelling up? Multiple: Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and Work Advance. Available from:

Image by Kyle Loftus