Creative freelancers hit hardest by pandemic, new study reveals

According to the Creative UK group, freelancers have been hit more than five times as hard as those on payroll. But the report also notes the creative industries’ potential for helping the economy bounce back.

23 July 2021

As an industry that thrives on collaboration, communication and connection, indoor confinement has had huge knock-on effects on the creative industries. The Creative UK group — composed of Creative Industries Federation and Creative England — shows that Covid-19 has cost the creative industries £12 billion in the value of its goods and services. Oxford Economics reveals that prior to the pandemic, the creative industries directly supported more than one in ten UK jobs. Taking a forward-thinking approach, however, the study also chose to highlight what unlocking the potential of creative industries could do to help the economy recover if swift action is taken.

Most affected were the freelancers. 95,000 of the job losses were predicted to be freelance compared to 18,000 employees on payroll – in other words, earning a salary. Perhaps unsurprising, considering just how many creatives choose to be self-employed: a staggering 35 per cent of the sector, according to the Creative Industries Federation.

The study states that museums and galleries were the second industry hardest hit by the pandemic, after music and performing arts, and are estimated to have lost £310 million and 14 per cent of jobs, whilst design is estimated to have lost £490 million and seven per cent of jobs. And it’s not only the galleries themselves that suffer; for every £1 directly contributed by museums, galleries and libraries, an additional £4.40 was generated elsewhere in the wider economy, meaning a hit taken by the creative industries is a pain felt by all sectors.

As disheartening as the numbers are, the report’s focus is not on the dwindling values, but rather the huge potential for the creative industries to help the post-pandemic economy bounce back. Aptly named “Unleashing the power and potential of creativity”, the report’s data suggests that “with a 20 per cent increase in spend and investment, the creative industries can generate enough new jobs to employ the working-age populations of Hartlepool and Middlesbrough twice over.”

The Creative Industries Federation has also revealed that 87 per cent of creative jobs are at low or no risk of automation. Meaning that creativity is the future. The study concludes that “we must invest in creativity”, since they have the potential to create 300,000 new jobs and generate an extra £28 billion for the economy over the course of the next four years. The Creative UK group are ultimately urging the government to take investments into the creative sector seriously and help foster a new generation of creatives with huge potential to benefit all other sectors.

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Creative UK Group: We Are Creative (Copyright © Creative Group UK, 2021)

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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