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The creative economy powers the UK's economic growth

Where is the growth in the UK’s creative economy coming from? The answer is everywhere.

Recently-published government figures on employment show that between 2011 and 2014 the creative economy increased its share of all jobs in every region and devolved nation of the UK.

This momentum helped power the creative economy – the sum total of all jobs in the creative industries plus creative occupations in other sectors – to add 200,000 new jobs in 2014, a growth rate of more than three times the average reported for the UK economy across all industries.

This job-creation record underlines the fact that the UK’s creative industries not only contribute an estimated £79.6bn a year to the nation’s coffers, but are increasingly also being seen by the government as a source of high value, high-growth jobs.

London and the South East remain the powerhouses of the UK’s creative economy, accounting between them for more than 40 per cent of all the UK’s creative occupations. But other regions have been enjoying growth spurts in recent years.

The South West flourishes

Take the South West, where in the Bristol and Bath area the long-standing residents, Aardman Animations and the BBC Natural History unit, have been joined by a flourish of local tech, games and branding businesses. In the South West the creative economy’s share of all jobs leapt from 7.5 per cent to 8.3 per cent last year, and there are now an estimated 230,000 creative roles in the region.

Only just behind is the north-west, with its 220,000 creative jobs, equivalent to almost one in 12 of all such roles across the UK.

The region’s depth of expertise in areas such as television programming and digital media has attracted international recognition and investment.

Indian VC fund Vistaar Group plans to invest a projected £33m over five years in a new post-production studio in Manchester’s Media City, the media hub for the BBC, ITV and others. According to a report by UK Trade & Investment, the Vistaar deal is just one of more than 120 FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) projects agreed by overseas investors in creative organisations across the UK during 2014.

Over the last four years, both the East and West Midlands have also expanded the creative component of their economies to now represent just under 7 per cent of all jobs in their regions, with the eastern region experiencing the faster growth of the two in the most recent period.

Even the smallest parts of the UK’s creative economy have developed their own identity. One case in point is Northern Ireland. Although the region provides only 44,000 of the UK’s total 2.8m creative economy jobs, almost 11 per cent of the region’s creative jobs are in architecture – more than double this industry’s average share of creative jobs across the UK and three times the share found in the East Midlands.

Each of these regions contributed to a 3.5 per cent rise in the value of creative services exported by the UK during 2013 (the most recent year for which data is available) to reach a total of £17.9bn – or more than £49m every day. Between 2009 and 2013, the value of the UK’s creative exports has risen by over a third.

Boost for future skills

The growth in the creative economy is also tipping the UK towards developing a more highly skilled future workforce.

Between 2013 and 2014, there was an 110,000 increase in the number of creative jobs held by people with at least a degree or its equivalent qualification. Compared to the UK average in which 31.8 per cent of jobs are occupied by people educated with at least a degree or its equivalent, this figure is far higher for the UK’s creative economy (58.8 per cent).

One in six of all UK jobs occupied by a graduate is now to be found in the creative economy, suggesting the country can look forward to generations of creatively experienced workers.

The recent news about the economic growth of the creative industries may seem cause enough for celebration. In the longer-term, however, it may prove to be only the beginning of a generational shift towards a more creatively-led UK future.

By Carlos Grande, Editor,

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