Nearly half of Equity members earn less than £6,000 a year performing

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Almost half of all performers in the UK earned less than £6,000 from the profession in the last 12 months and most spent the majority of their time doing other jobs, according to major new research by Skillset and Equity.

Of 8,500 Equity members surveyed, 71% had worked outside the industry for 28 weeks or more in the past year, compared to an average of 18 weeks spent inside it, while two in ten had worked for 40 weeks or more in alternative sectors. Over the 12 month period, 48% took home less than £6,000.

Karen Tarvin, research coordinator at Skillset, the sector skills council for the audio visual industries, said: "You would probably expect some people to work in jobs outside the industry to support themselves when performance work dries up but the results highlight that this happens a lot and for long periods of time. It seems to bear out that old adage of always having a skill to fall back on.

"It was also interesting to see that top earners within the industry are more than twice as likely to be men, which may come as a surprise to many people."

The survey revealed that men earned £12,100 on average from performing work and women £8,900, with female performers more likely to have earned less than £6,000, despite a higher proportion holding professional qualifications.

One in ten of those working in the performance industry reported having a disability, a higher proportion than the UK workforce in general, while 6% came from ethnic minority groups - slightly lower than the UK workforce estimate of 7%.

Half of respondents said they had training or career development needs at the time of the survey, with those working in dance or corporate entertainment most likely to do so. Areas commonly mentioned included acting, audition technique, voice coaching, singing, information technology, languages and business skills.

Skillset chief executive Dinah Caine said: "A broad range of training and development needs were reported in the survey relating to a wide variety of disciplines, some specific to the industry and some more generic in nature. Involvement in training is lower than this, which highlights the importance of work in this area. The results of this survey are absolutely essential in advance of future work to plan and anticipate training needs."