‘Balancing Act’ Survey

PIPA’s survey into the impact of caring responsibilities on career progression in Dance, Music and Theatre.


The UK’s performing arts sector prides itself on ensuring that the arts are accessible and inclusive to all. This principle should – and can – be extended to all who work in the sector, whether their work takes place on or off-stage.

In 2017 Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PIPA) conducted a survey into the barriers to career progression faced by those working in theatre on and offstage.  This identified both organisational and behavioural barriers, which exacerbate ‘under-employment’ in the theatre industry.  The results showed that more than 70% of performing arts workers with caring responsibilities turned down work at least once a month, as a direct consequence of their caring duties. This was especially true of self-employed workers, where 4 out of 5 turned down work on a monthly basis due to caring responsibilities.  

Against this background PIPA has conducted the industry’s biggest ever survey of the impact of caring responsibilities on career progression in the performing arts across dance, music and theatre, for on- and offstage workers including management and administrative roles.

‘Balancing Act’ is the first national benchmarking survey of its kind, as little, if any national data exists on how people manage their caring responsibilities whilst working in the performing arts. The purpose of the ‘Balancing Act’ survey is to

  • Gather up-to-date data on the impact of caring responsibilities on career progression and earnings in the performing arts in order to establish a benchmark.
  • Identify further barriers to inclusive work practices in the arts.
  • Identify areas for further investigation and scrutiny, to inform policy formation and ultimately influence industry best practice.

The PIPA ‘Balancing Act’ survey was conducted in partnership with Birkbeck, University of London and was funded by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, Help Musicians UK, Sadler’s Wells and SOLT/ UK Theatre.

The full practice report will be available at the beginning of December 2018. 

Method for the benchmark survey

In partnership with Birkbeck University’s Department of Organizational Psychology, PIPA developed a survey incorporating quantitative benchmark questions about earnings, benefits, and household income, job security, employability, work/life balance and wellbeing. We also invited qualitative responses from survey participants to identify challenges and existing support systems which enables them to continue working in the arts, and any reasons for leaving the sector.

The survey was shared online in June and July 2018 to target employed workers and freelancers, on and off-stage across dance, music and theatre. It was promoted through PIPA’s partner network as well as in the industry press.

The performing arts is a sector which rewards very well at the very top end of the profession: whether this is through profile of production or individual profile, there is a wide disparity in earning between those who are able to influence their salary levels, and the majority of those working in the profession who are not able to significantly exert influence on set wages.

Because of this considerable disparity of earnings between those at the higher end of salary scales and the vast majority of workers, we have used median earnings (the mid point), rather than the average, to reflect a more representative picture of the industry as a whole, and minimise the potential for distortion that the relatively few number of high earners might exert on the data set.


Who Took Part?

Participants by sector







Participants  by Gender





Non/binary/not stated 


Employments Status







Please note participants could choose multiple options, as some have different types of contract at any one time which totals over 100%.


On and Offstage Workers

On Stage                   


Off Stage (incl. Management & Administration


Participants by Caring Responsibilities

Carers (incl. Parents)


Non Carers    


Please note total numbers of participants vary throughout the dataset due to fluctuating rates of response to individual questions.


Headline Findings



Carers are more likely to be female, and work part-time or freelance.

29% of carers responding to the survey were in full-time employment compared to 45% of non-carers.

Female participants are nearly twice as likely to work part time (17% of participants) than men (9%); male respondents are more likely to be in full-time work than women.

79% of female respondents reported that they were the primary carer (i.e. responsible for more than 50% of the caring), but only 16% male respondents would say the same.

72% of women with caring responsibilities are either part-time or freelance, compared to 54% of women who are not carers.

There is no notable difference in employment structure between men with or without caring responsibilities, which we tested out statistically.  Fewer females with caring responsibilities hold full-time contracts than expected by probability; whereas more females with caring responsibilities do part-time or freelance work than expected. In contrast, the proportions of men in each category (full-time, part-time, freelance) was not significantly affected by whether or not they had caring responsibilities.




Carers are not working in the roles they are trained and experienced in.

37% of respondents with caring responsibilities changed their work role and 45% changed their work location because of caring related issues. Other notable differences are that 50% of women said that they had to change their work location because of childcare responsibilities, and 36% of men.  44% women had to change roles due to childcare responsibilities, compared to 23% of male carers. Further investigation is needed to understand the motivating factors and the nature of the changes. As of those who had change roles, only 19% agreed that they received adequate training, and only 21% agreed that they received adequate support.


Income insufficient to cover unexpected outgoings.

37% of participants say that their wages never or rarely cover typical outgoings. 64% of participants stated that their earnings never or rarely covered unexpected expenses. More carers than non-carers indicated that their earnings were not sufficient to cover routine expenses and unexpected costs. Qualitative data indicates that out of hours and short notice childcare is a particular concern for respondents.

Quantitative data shows that the caring workforce relies predominantly on in-kind support from family or partners in order to be able to continue working. This features four times as strongly as the next important factor, which is support from employers and colleagues.


Carers would like to work more.

40% of carers would like to increase their working hours, ideally by an additional two days of work per week which based on the median income (across all participants, from all performing arts work) of £21,500 would add an estimated £160 to weekly earnings.


76% of carers have had to turn down work because of childcare responsibilities; this is true for 80% of female participants and true for 69% of male participants. For freelancer participants this figure is 85%, for part timers 78% and for full-time workers 59%. The vast majority (68%) have been unable to attend auditions or interviews because of lack of childcare (for 35% of those missing auditions or other opportunities this happens once a month or more).




Carers more likely to be freelance.

54% of total respondents are freelance compared to 15% of the overall UK workforce. 58% of carers are freelance compared to 48% of non-carers. 29% of respondents with caring responsibilities were in full-time employment compared to 45% of non-carers. Carers are more likely to be freelance and less likely to work fulltime. (Note: the total is more than 100% as there is a proportion of participants who combine work from differing contracts).


Fixed term contracts and freelance working has a negative impact on earnings.

At first sight, the median level of earnings of workers in the performing arts compares favourably with earnings of those in other sectors.

The median earnings of full-time employed respondents are £30,000 per year. This compares to the UK national average of £27,500.  

For respondents working part-time, the median earnings are £17,361.

However,when fixed-term and freelance workers are included, the median average across all respondents, including fixed-term and freelance workers, is £21,500 (boosted to median earnings of £25,000 through other work).

The median earnings for freelancers are £16,000 per year, boosted by another 25% to £20,000 from non-performing arts work.

On-stage workers earn a median salary from performing arts of £12,000 per year (boosted by £8,000 to a median earning of £20,000 by other work).

Earnings also differ by caring responsibilities: the median earnings for carers are £20,000: this compares to a median of £23,000 for those without caring responsibilities.




Carers would like to access Shared Parental Leave Benefits for freelancers.

Although only 10% have taken shared parental leave, over 60% of those who are employed would like to take it, and 72% of those who are self-employed would take it in the future.

79% of female respondents reported that they were the primary carer (i.e. responsible for more than 50% of the caring), but only 16% male respondents would say the same. There is a high desire among freelance respondents for shared parental leave. 74% of men and 72% of women said they’d like to access shared parental leave if it was available. This suggests that for some, increased access to benefits may result in an increase in shared caring responsibility.




A dedicated workforce.

Participants reported higher than average levels of engagement. However, work-life balance is lower than in comparable data in other industries and other countries (we compared an established measure against data collected across seven different countries, and levels in our sample are consistently lower). We also observed very low levels of employability (where nearly 60% say that they’d find it hard to get a similar job if they lost theirs). Additionally, well over half disagreed that they had either adequate promotion prospects or adequate income.




PIPA’s Recommendations:

1.) Employers and Industry bodies should collaborate with PIPA to establish career development opportunities for carers and parents returning to work, through training, mentoring and return to work programs.

2.) Introduction of equal opportunities monitoring of carers and parents to be reviewed on an annual basis in order to benchmark progress.

3.) Organisations urgently review their working practices, in line with the PIPA Best Practice Charter, to adopt a flexible approach to recruitment, management and development of all staff, from day one, for both freelance and employed workers.