Workshop Title

Working on the Edge? Questioning the Sustainability of the Creative Industries


Julie Brown -

Robert Nadler -


Statistics attributed to the growth potential of the ‘creative economy’ often disregard the ‘quality of work life’ of those in the sector and the fact that much creative employment is typically ‘non-standard’ and classed as ‘precarious’ or ‘insecure’. Temporary, short-term, project-based and contract working appears to be the norm and there are high levels of self-employment and freelance working. Long working hours are typical (with work often spilling over into home life) and multiple job-holding in associated or different sectors is more frequent than in the general workforce. There is often frequent job changing; earnings are unequal and fluctuating and unpaid work is commonplace. Added to this there is little job protection or security; low levels of unionisation and uncertain career development pathways. But despite this, creative workers have been hailed as ‘model entrepreneurs’ (Florida, 2002). This has wider implications as shifts in the structure of the economy as a whole (specifically the move towards a knowledge-based economy, globalisation, technological advances such as the internet and the reform and deregulation of (Western) labour markets) means jobs are becoming increasingly temporary, casual, and insecure - the ‘flexible’ working practices and fluid career structures that exemplify the creative sector now characterise much of the ‘new economy’. While there is now a growing interest in the nature of work in the creative sector, there are still significant gaps in our knowledge on the extent to which ‘precariousness’ affects the ‘quality of work life’ of those employed in the sector and the implications for the social and economic sustainability of the creative industries as well as what this might mean for the wider ‘knowledge economy’.

Workshop Questions

  • Given what we know about the character of creative work, how sustainable (or not) is employment in the creative sector, both in an economic and a social sense?
  • How is job satisfaction constructed in creative industries? What is the relation between ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ motivators in creative work environments and what impacts might these have on the sustainability of creative work?
  • What are the prospects for city-regions which rely on increasing levels of creative sector employment to sustain economic growth?
  • Is the creative industries employment model a good one to adopt for the knowledge economy?
  • At what point does the nature of creative employment trigger the decision to leave the sector to seek alternative employment? To what degree do life-stage or gender influence workers’ perception of risk and precarity?
  • How can or should the sustainability of creative employment be addressed in policy frameworks for the creative economy? What about notions such as ‘flexicurity’?
  • Are there alternative bottom-up approaches to social security, welfare and assistance? Comments from the creative workers.
  • What is the effect of different European labour market conditions on levels of ‘precarious’ employment? Do different labour market conditions foster migration of highly skilled workers to or from certain countries or regions?


Julie Brown (Birmingham)

Robert Nadler (Leipzig/Milan)

Neven Allanic (Leipzig/Nice)

Karl Binder (Birmingham)

Michal Meczynski (Poznan)

Enzo Mingione (Milan)


1 session of 1.5 – 2 hrs, open discussion about the social standards in creative industries after brief input presentations (5-10 minutes) about the following topics:

  • How sustainable are Creative jobs? Findings from Birmingham, Leipzig and Poznan. (Julie Brown; Michal Meczynski)
  • Creative knowledge workers between self-actualisation and precarity: A study on job satisfaction in the European Union. (Robert Nadler)
  • On the concept of ‘flexicurity’. (Enzo Mingione)
  • An artist’s perspective on social security philosophy/design in a creative world. (Neven Allanic)
  • Experience of a creative entrepreneur in Birmingham. (Karl Binder)