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Creative CardiffPolicy and research

What is the creative economy?

20 October 2015

Q. What is the creative economy?
A. It is the economic output of everyone who does an officially recorded creative job in (for example) the UK, as measured in the official labour force statistics.

Q. How does the creative economy differ from the creative industries?
A. The creative industries are a set of named business sectors mostly to do with media (such as music, film, broadcasting and publishing). In the late 1990s, these were identified as being economically (as well as culturally) important and the Government began to collect better creative industries statistics.

Q. How big is the creative economy?
A. At the latest count, the UK creative economy accounted for 2.6 million jobs, roughly one in 12 (or just over 8 per cent) of the UK total. Between 1997 and 2013, the creative economy jobs total grew at a rate of 2.3 per cent a year, which is four times greater than the growth rate for jobs in the UK economy as a whole. So, the creative economy is hot – building on its success is a serious political objective.

Q. What are the strongest growth areas of the creative economy?
A. The biggest areas of creative economy employment in the UK are software and computer services, followed by advertising and marketing.

Q. Why are creative jobs so important?
A. Because they are desirable jobs – people like to do them; robots can’t take them over and (research shows) they are among the best paid jobs (that’s certainly true for Wales).

Q. How do Cardiff and Wales compare generally in creative economy statistics?
A. The Wales figures are not as reliable as the UK-wide figures, but here are some points that we can make: in the period 2011 to 2013, there were probably 78,000 jobs in Wales’ creative economy and 48,000 in Wales’ creative industries. That puts the Wales creative economy workforce at 5.7 per cent of all the jobs in Wales, so quite a bit below the UK level in proportionate terms. That difference is an indication of our realistic potential in Cardiff and Wales to grow the creative economy here.

Q. Is there any other way of measuring the economic importance of the creative economy?
A. Yes, statisticians also measure the ‘gross value added’ (GVA) of different parts of the economy, but these figures have not settled down in a way which allows us to show annual figures. Roughly speaking, according to Nesta, the UK creative economy accounts for almost 10 per cent of UK GVA, which makes it more important on this measure than the country’s financial services sector.

Q. How does the Wales and Cardiff creative economy compare with other parts of the UK?
A. We don’t have good enough statistics to give a precise answer, but we know that 43 per cent of all UK creative economy jobs are in London and the South East. We also know from various pieces of work by Nesta that the creative economy of South East Wales is, relatively speaking, a ‘warm’ spot, but not as hot as London, obviously, or (probably) places like Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh.

Q. Why does Creative Cardiff refer to itself as a creative economy project?
A. Because we work to help strengthen the creative quality of the economy across the board. We constantly meet people whose skills do or might fit anywhere, from the arts and publishing to insurance and the design of motor vehicles or aspects of the health service. We think that more creativity will give Cardiff and Wales a competitive edge.

Q. Are there other holes in the numbers?
A. Quite a few probably. For example, a huge amount of creative work is done by people who don’t expect to be paid for it – amateur theatre companies, for example, book clubs or fan networks. Cardiff is bustling with activity of this kind, as you see in the Made in Roath festival and lots of other examples. This type of work usually doesn’t get counted, either as jobs or economic output. The scale of this informal creative economy has also been boosted significantly by the internet, where we can see countless new and productive collaborations, but we don’t have good numbers on that either. This is something I explore in a new book which is the result of Creative Citizens, a research project that I led: The Creative Citizen Unbound: how social media and DIY culture contribute to democracy, communities and the creative economy (Policy Press).

Q. Where do all these figures come from? How do I check them or get an update?
A. The official Creative Industries Economic Estimates are published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in London.

Nesta (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) is another major source of information and analysis on the creative economy. It has collaborated with economists around the world to develop creative economy statistics for Australia, North America and Europe. Nesta’s work also underpins the official UK figures. See, for example, ‘The geography of the UK’s creative and high-tech economies‘.

The Creative Cardiff project has some of its roots in Nesta’s Manifesto for the Creative Economy (Bakhshi, Hargreaves and Mateos-Garcia, 2013). See especially chapter six, with its lessons for local and regional creative clusters.