Regularly funded arts organisations in England will be required to report on the socio-economic background of their employees from next year, under plans unveiled by Arts Council England.
The funding body already monitors gender, ethnicity, age and disability representation among the workforce of its 831 national portfolio organisations. However, it will now also look at individuals’ class background.
There is a “growing body of evidence” showing that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are under-represented in funded organisations, ACE deputy chief executive Simon Mellor said.
The body has previously identified socio-economic background as an area requiring more investigation within the diversity conversation, amid warnings that theatre and the performing arts are becoming increasingly privileged.
Recent research found that just one in 10 theatre directors are from working-class backgrounds, while there is growing pressure on the training sector to reduce the cost of auditioning for drama school because it excludes young people from poorer backgrounds.
Mellor went on to say: “This is a significant concern both to the Arts Council and the organisations that we invest in.”
He said the move represented an “important step in understanding the scale of the problem”, and would help address the barriers people face succeeding in the industry.
Arts Council director of diversity Abid Hussain added: “It’s something we have been wanting to do for a while, but we wanted to make sure we did it in the right way.
“It comes back to the whole conversation around intersectionality and recognising that there are different types of barriers people do face to pursuing a career in the arts and creative sectors.”
From 2020, ACE’s annual data survey will include the question: Thinking back to when you were aged about 14, which best describes the sort of work the main/highest-income earner in your household did in their main job?
A pilot period will take place next year, and will be reported on in the Arts Council’s annual diversity monitoring survey from 2021.
The question’s wording has been selected following a period of research carried out with NPOs and led by Susan Oman, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Sheffield.
ACE said the question was in line with Cabinet Office recommendations about how best to measure respondents’ background.