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Uncertainty surrounding EU migration is a wake up call for policymakers who must act to ensure a pipeline of international talent for the creative industries, according to a new report from innovation foundation Nesta.  

In Skilled Migration and the UK's Creative Industries, researchers found that certain sectors of this economic powerhouse are particularly reliant on international workers. In light of the referendum outcome and longstanding issues in the non-EU skilled migration system, policymakers must prioritise making it easier for creatives - including visual effects artists, programmers and dancers - to work in the UK.

Using the Annual Population Survey, the researchers found that 6.1 per cent of jobs in the creative industries are filled by European workers and 5 per cent by non-EU migrants. This compares to 5.6 per cent from Europe and 4.2 per cent from outside of Europe in the wider workforce.

Currently non-EU migrants must battle against high visa costs and strenuous professional requirements, all of which means the UK may be competing with the likes of the US and Australia, who have similar migration systems, for talent.

Sectors where non-European skilled migrants feature more highly than European workers include IT software and computer services (8.4 per cent compared with 5.5 per cent) and museums, galleries and libraries (5.8 per cent compared with  4 per cent).

Companies based in the UK and which rely on talent from outside of Europe - and have a Tier 2 sponsor licence for skilled workers - are wide-ranging and include Saatchi and Saatchi Ltd, Foster and Partners, Warner Music, The Royal Ballet, Microsoft Ltd and English National Opera.

Hasan Bakhshi, Senior Director of Digital and Creative Economy at Nesta, comments: “The creative industries employ 1.9 million people and are an important driver of economic growth. Now, more than ever, policymakers will need to ensure that creative businesses can recruit internationally - from outside of the EU as well as from inside - in order to sustain their success. We hope that the government more generally will take heed of Creative Industries Minister, Matt Hancock’s recent advice that the sector should be given a starring role in the upcoming industrial strategy.”

To prepare the next generation of UK creatives Nesta has previously called for the government to end the bias against multi–disciplinary education in our education system – turning STEM into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) - and in Creativity vs Robots Nesta found that creative jobs are more resistant to automation.

Skilled Migration and the UK's Creative Industries is available at


About Nesta: Nesta is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833 / @nesta_uk

For more information contact Laura Scruby in Nesta’s press office on 0207 438 2697/ [email protected]