About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Why the UK needs one million new creative jobs by 2030 and what the government can do about it

The UK’s strong current growth performance compared with other countries must not detract from her deep–seated structural problems: namely, her low investment in skills, infrastructure and innovation.

As a consequence of these problems, productivity – output per hour worked – is 17 per cent lower than the average for the rest of the G7 nations, the widest gap for over 20 years. At the same time, there is growing evidence that technological progress has created a ‘sagging middle’ in the labour market, with machines and computers replacing employees in many routine jobs in the middle of the income distribution, contributing to record increases in income inequality.

And in all countries the evidence is mounting of high levels of worker dissatisfaction and disengagement with low levels of intrinsic motivation across the workforce.

But, the Creative Economy stands out as a shining light.

As one of the UK’s unsung success stories, the Creative Economy makes up almost a tenth of value added, it is deeply rooted in national history and accounts for 2.6 million jobs, making it bigger than sectors like Advanced Manufacturing, Financial Services and Construction.

1.8 million of these jobs are in creative occupations (as can be seen in our interactive visualisation) – from advertising professionals to computer programmers, and from actors to video games developers – who are highly educated, skilled and drivers of innovation.

Creativity vs. Robots

Crucially, new research from Nesta shows that in the future creative jobs will also be more resistant to automation. In 'Creativity vs Robots' we show that creativity is inversely related to computerisability: 87 per cent of highly creative workers are at low or no risk of automation, compared with 40 per cent of jobs in the UK workforce as a whole. At the regional level, we see that places with a higher proportion of the workforce in creative jobs, most obviously London, are also more immune to automation.

Such findings should not be surprising: they reflect the fact that machines can most successfully emulate humans when a problem is well specified in advance – that is, when performance can be straightforwardly quantified and evaluated – and when the work task environment is sufficiently simple to enable autonomous control. They will struggle when tasks are highly interpretive, geared at ‘products whose final form is not fully specified in advance’, and when work task environments are complex – a good description of most creative occupations.

Creative jobs, ‘good’ jobs

A further new study for Nesta, undertaken by SImetrica, shows that creative occupations tend to be characterised by higher than average levels of life satisfaction, worthwhileness and happiness – but also higher levels of anxiety. Once other factors that affect subjective wellbeing are controlled for – including wages, which are higher than average for creative occupations like computer programmers and advertising professionals but lower for artists, musicians and actors – jobs in arts, crafts and design occupations are generally associated with higher levels of wellbeing, whereas jobs in advertising, film, TV and radio, publishing and IT are associated with lower wellbeing levels.

One million new creative jobs

Projecting forward the higher than average growth rate of creative jobs since 1997 would imply roughly one million new creative jobs by 2030.

Nesta believes that to capitalise on our creative strengths, and to invest in the wellbeing of the workforce, the next government should commit the UK to achieving this.

To realise this ambition, we make five sets of recommendations for policy, building on the comprehensive strategy for government we set out in 'A Manifesto for the Creative Economy':

1) The government should end the bias against multi–disciplinary education in our education system – turning STEM into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).

2) BIS and DCMS should establish a competitive £100 million strategic fund using Regional Growth Fund money to develop creative clusters outside London, with matched funding from the private sector, local authorities and cultural funders.

3) The government should ensure that the UK’s digital infrastructure allows creative businesses to develop the next generation of world–beating content, services and apps by creating a £100 million Ultrafast Digital Infrastructure Demonstrator fund.

4) Public funders should make their arts funding go further by promoting new and innovative financing models.

5) The government should establish a National Lottery distributor for the video games industry, following the model of the BFI.

We will be discussing these recommendations and creative economy research at our event, The Creative Economy and the Future of Employment, this evening. For more information and to read the recommendations in full, see the accompanying policy brief.




Hasan Bakhshi

Hasan Bakhshi

Hasan Bakhshi

Director, Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre

Hasan oversaw Nesta's creative economy policy, research and practical work.

View profile
George Windsor

George Windsor

George Windsor

Senior Policy Researcher

George was a Senior Policy Researcher in the Creative and Digital Economy team.

View profile