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Research highlights “balancing act” for carers working the in the performing arts

By | Published on Monday 22 October 2018

Parents And Carers In Performing Arts

Campaign group Parents And Carers In Performing Arts has launched new research highlighting the “balancing act” that must be performed by people who work in the arts and who have childcare or other caring responsibilities to meet. The study found that a series of significant career disadvantages were endured by those caring for others.

More than 2500 people working in the performing arts were surveyed for the research, the majority working off stage. Most worked in theatre, although over 500 were working in music. Of those surveyed, over 1000 said they had caring responsibilities. The study found that people with such responsibilities generally faced lower earnings, plus a lack of opportunity and support within the industry.

Over half of the respondents were freelance workers – compared to 15% of the general population – with a higher proportion of carers versus non-carers working in that way. The research also found that many respondents were earning far less than the national average wage, with over a third of all participants saying that what they earn does no cover what they need for their typical expenses, and over two thirds saying that they do not earn enough to deal with any unexpected outgoings.

In order to boost income, 40% of carers said that they would like to increase their working hours, typically by two days per week. However, 76% of carers said that they have had to turn down additional work due to childcare issues. This is most true for freelance and part-time workers, and more for women, who are more likely to be a primary carer.

Over a third of carers said that they had changed their role due to their responsibilities outside work. However, only 19% agreed that they received adequate training for any change in role, and only 21% agreed that they received adequate support.

Professor Almuth McDowall from Birkbeck University of London, which conducted the research, says: “The data points to high job insecurity, career penalties for carers and for women, and an urgent need for flexible and inclusive work practices. A recent job share for a performing artist in the London West End made headlines news – but this is common practice in other sectors. Our data shows that there is urgent need for change”.

PIPA founder Cassie Raine adds: “This is a great opportunity to reflect as an industry and investigate more supportive working practices, inclusive of carers and parents, whether they are single parents or caring for sick or elderly relatives. No matter where you start off in life or what happens on the way, as an industry we have to show that we are invested in workforce wellbeing and value their ability to maintain a work-life balance”.

As a result of the research, PIPA has set out three recommendations, including for performing arts organisations to adopt more flexible approaches to recruitment, management and staff development. It also calls on employers and industry bodies to establish career development opportunities for carers and parents returning to work, and for annually reviewed equal opportunities monitoring.

The full report will be published in December, but its interim findings are available to read now here.