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Put your daughter down a mine, Mrs Worthington, say new earnings stats | Featured Buzz reviews, news & interviews

Put your daughter down a mine, Mrs Worthington, say new earnings stats

2011 official statistics reveal arts are still almost at bottom of earnings pile

If you can't turn art into money, you might as well turn money into art'Penny Sculpture' by Lord Arnebus

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington, put her down a mine. Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics for weekly earnings to 2011 paint a stark earnings picture for those working in the arts and entertainment industry. The weekly average earnings for last year in this most life-enhancing of sectors is just £320 - while the average weekly in the “Mining and Quarrying” industry is a whopping £1,082, including substantial monthly bonuses. That translates to an average £16,600 gross salary in the arts field and £56,000+ in the petroleum, coal and quarrying industries.

“Financial and insurance activities” rated second-highest weekly earnings of £1,020, again including notably large bonuses in February and March. IT, scientific, technical, electricity and power supply, and the chemicals manufacturing all attract weekly earnings of well over double the rate for the arts world. Only “Retail Trade and Repairs” (which includes shops and garages) and “Accommodation and Food Service Activities” fall below arts workers, with pitiful weekly average earnings of £267 and £224. So the B&B landladies are even worse off than the actors.

The definitions are a little slippery: workers in the live arts fall broadly into the “Arts, Entertainment and Recreation” sector - along with gambling, librarians and sport - while workers in the recorded, published and broadcast arts - ie virtually anything to do with IT equipment -  seem to be included under the much better rewarded “Information and Communication” sector, which largely embraces the production process, publishers, film technicians, TV producers and marketing departments.

These figures do not include the armies of freelance and contract workers, nor would they include the fees of many of the chief creators in the arts, who tend to be self-employed. The average is created from a vast range of payroll earnings, with, say, Sir Antonio Pappano, musical director of the Royal Opera House, on £630,000-odd somewhere near one end, and minimum-wage earners in small provincial theatres near the other. However, in most other sectors, this top-to-bottom gap would yawn much more dramatically, with the multi-million salaries of chief executives (say, Shell’s Peter Voser on roughly £5million annually) compared against low clerical office workers. How much use these figures are, therefore, is perhaps on a more general scale of how much the UK values and prices such services for the nation.

From that aspect, “mining and quarrying” (or the extraction of petroleum, gas, coal and construction materials) is worth much over three times more to Britain than its culture. And to be part of the technical production process for the arts or working on mass electronic communication systems is vastly more valued in its contribution to UK economy than to be in live arts. Both of those broadbrush deductions may not be so out of line with today’s Britain where the economic argument is increasingly the only one that matters, and more general ones about mental stimulation and the quality of human experience have been shoved aside, being unevaluable in accountancy departments.

From ONS Labour Market Statistics January 2012
Average Jan-Nov 2011 weekly earnings

weekly earnings table

The argument for stimulation to the quality of human experience has been shoved aside, being unevaluable by accountants

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