Are we getting the recognition we deserve as a major contributor to the UK economy?

By March 11, 2016Event Freelancer
Rigger working

EventProFinder Comments on the standing of the employed/self-employed status within the UK government’s national statistics. 

 The most recent statistics available confirm that the UK events industry is worth a healthy £42.3bn to the economy. This is not a figure to be sniffed at, and no governments should take a sector of this size for granted.  

When these figures are broken down, a clearer picture of how money is spent in the events industry emerges:

The Value of Britain’s Events Sector (£40b) – direct spend by segment 

·                     Conferences and meetings – £19.9 billion 
·                     Exhibitions and trade fairs – £11.0 billion
·                      Incentive travel and performance improvement – £1.2 billion 
·                     Corporate hospitality and corporate events – £1.2 billion 
·                     Outdoor events – £1.1 billion 
·                     Festivals and cultural events – £1.1 billion 
·                     Music events – £1.3 billion 
·                     Sporting events – £2.3 billion  

To put it into a global context, the global Conference Industry Council estimates that, around the world, the events industry is worth between US$300 billion and US$500 billion, making it a significant driver of global commerce and employment.  

With those numbers in mind, you would expect that the industry would carry some clout in the UK economy. 

This is why we were surprised to find that we struggled to accurately measure the size and scope of the UK events labour market.  

This is what we found: 

Reportedly, there are over 25,000 businesses in the sector including event organisers, venues, destination marketing organisations (DMOs), destination management companies (DMCs), exhibition contractors and event production companies.  On the supplier side, these businesses include transport operators, telecommunications and IT companies, interpreters and translators, specialty caterers, event insurance specialists, and many others.  

The Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP), an association for the events industry, estimates that the sector sustains around 530,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, mostly in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The top 10 leading event agencies in the UK have a turnover of more than £2 billion, much of which is generated outside the UK. 

It is important to note that this was not detailed in any report using data by the Standard Industrial Codes (SIC), but rather from industry-backed bodies, using fairly rigorous research methodologies.  

With regards to the self-employed or the freelance market, there was almost no accurate data available.  

One of the reasons the government uses Standard Industrial Codes (SIC) to classify each labour sector in the UK so that it can be accurately measured. However, looking at the lack of diversified codes offered to the events industry by the SIC, it becomes perfectly clear why there is a lack of validated data regarding labour in the events industry.  

The truth of it is that we don’t have many occupational codes for the industry, with the exception of event managers, venue managers and exhibition managers. What this means is that we simply cannot grasp the scope of the market and the labour force involved.

Ultimately, the vast majority of skills are simply overlooked, or rather they have been classified to represent a different set of data. 

This same problem was highlighted in a report for the music industry, one of the many segments that make up the events industry.

The report reads, “These contributions to the “bottom line” of UK PLC are, however, poorly captured in the national statistics. The standard industrial and occupational codes (SIC & SOC) underpinning ONS national statistics do not directly map onto the music industry. Even within the partial coding system that exists, the music industry is poorly served, resulting in many outputs from music firms being allocated to other sectors of the economy. A UK Music/ ONS matching exercise revealed that of 9,435 music businesses (labels & publishers) only 1,319 or 12% were correctly SIC coded and approaching half were not matched to the IDBR (Inter Departmental Business Register).

Software issues and incomplete addresses account for a significant proportion of non-matches but it is unknown how many non-matches result from businesses not being present on the IDBR per se. Unlike many other industries, the poor mapping between SIC codes and actual activity within the music industry prevents use of the ONS Annual Business Survey to accurately calculate the GVA contribution that would follow from Gross Outputs.”  

Whilst having a more accurate classification system for our industry will probably not make a difference to those working on the ground, the absence of an accurate classification system means that business owners across the UK cannot plan effectively for their business needs in the future.

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