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Working-class actors no more disadvantaged today than 40 years ago – report

Julie Walters. Photo: Twocoms/Shutterstock

Working-class people today are no more disadvantaged when it comes to accessing jobs in the arts than they were almost 40 years ago, according to new research.

It claims there has never been a “golden age of classless access to creative employment”.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Sheffield, and used data from census records back to 1971.

They found that people whose parents “had the most privileged occupations”, such as doctors, lawyers and senior management posts, “were over four times more times more likely to be working as actors, musicians, programme-makers and in other creative roles than those from a working-class background”.

“This disparity did not significantly change across the period studied,” the researchers found. The period covered was from 1981 to 2011.

“Employment data shows that the proportion of people from a working-class background in creative jobs was higher in the past. But that was because there were more working-class people in the 1980s, and not because it was easier for them to find creative jobs,” the report states.

In recent years, actors including David Morrissey and Juliet Walters have claimed it has become harder for working-class people to access jobs in the arts.

A report in 2015 found that actors from working-class backgrounds made up just 10% of the profession.

Only 10% of actors are working class [1]

Researcher Orian Brook said: “People from a working-class background have a dramatically lower probability of working in creative jobs than those from the privileged class, but this has not changed over time.”

“Our research shows that creative occupations have always been characterised by over-representations of those from privileged social origins, with little evidence of a classless meritocracy.”

She added there was no “golden age of classless access to creative employment”.

“We have shown that cultural work, for the population born in the 1950s and after, has always been socially exclusive,” she said.