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The London Lab sub-theme: Workforce Diversity

This is a summary of the CIRCE London research sub-theme: workforce diversity

Published onOct 19, 2023
The London Lab sub-theme: Workforce Diversity


Work in the creative and cultural industries (CCI) is often assumed to be a playground for new ideas and creativity. A setting which offers workers the autonomy to ‘do what they love’ (Duffy, 2017), to be involved with ‘exciting and cutting edge work’ (Gill, 2002), and to engage in ‘passionate’ and fulfilling labour (McRobbie, 2016). On the surface then, the creative and cultural sector promises a workplace which is ‘open’, ‘diverse’ and ‘bohemian’, ‘hostile to rigid caste systems’ (Florida, 2002), a plausible environment to seek out new forms of working agency outside the confinements of traditional employment. Indeed, this is one side of the story. The other, however, tells a murkier narrative around the realities of work in these areas. More specifically, the last two decades of critical creative industries research has worked to illuminate the ways the structures of the CCI continue to reproduce distinctive patterns of inequality and exclusion. These arguments raise issues around the ways the informality, precariousness, and ‘bulimic patterns of work’ (Pratt, 2002) in the CCI perpetuate intersectional inequalities. Moreover, overlapping crises such as austerity, Brexit, and the pandemic have deepened and intensified CCI workforce disparities over the last 15 years. This section of the report considers the impact of these events through the lens of ‘workforce diversity’. It looks at who works in culture, who succeeds in creative and cultural fields, and in turn, sheds light on persisting workforce inequalities. Simultaneously, this section unpacks the new permutations of diversity initiatives as they come to prominence in contemporary CCI policy agendas across the UK.

Foregrounding the 2008 financial crash as a pivotal moment in ABC crises contexts, this section on workforce diversity contours the shifting patterns of CCI labour in response to these events. It hones in on the ways in which the drastic funding cuts, austerity policies, and waves of redundancies since 2008 lead to surges in self-employment, and a broader push for resilient working cultures across the CCI workforce. This section also looks at the implications of Brexit on CCI workforce diversity. In particular, it examines how tightening visa and immigration policies have given rise to CCI talent and skills shortages, unmanageable administrative burdens, not to mention a reduction in foreign workforce diversity (PEC, 2023). This section goes on to investigate the impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns and post-pandemic economic uncertainty, with particular attention to the ways this has disproportionately affected CCI workers from diverse backgrounds (Ali, Guirand, Byrne, Saha, Taylor 2022). Moreover, this section illuminates the ways these crises have direct ramifications for the lived experiences of harassment, discrimination, exclusions, and inequalities of diverse CCI workers. 

At the same time, through the lens of workforce diversity, this section considers the new formations taking shape as a result of these crisis events. It sheds light on the contemporary moment, with particular attention to the discursive rise of the worker post-pandemic. It explores the way the post-pandemic/brexit context has drawn new and increased attention to CCI labouring lives, to structural conditions of precarity, and to inequalities, and how this has evoked varying forms of resistance across the CCI. In addition, this section highlights the impact of social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter and #metoo, exploring their role[HC1]  in the growth of EDI policy frameworks within the CCI (and wider). Moreover, this section surveys the ways some creative and cultural workers are re-imagining their work in times of crisis, through networks of collectivity and solidarity, stronger attention to union organising & striking, and through grassroots and activists initiatives, to consider the implications for the current and future state of workforce diversity in the CCI.

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