Last year’s Big artists’ survey revealed that only 16% of artists were paying into a pension to support them in old age and retirement. Following these findings, AIR is undertaking research towards changing this poor state of affairs.

AIR Council member Joseph Young has been commissioned to look at how other membership bodies offer pension schemes and to assess the scope and feasibility of establishing a viable pension scheme that visual artists could afford to pay into.

Key findings so far include:

  • The Pensions for Artists research commissioned by Arts Council England in 2007 showed that 70% of artists (across all artforms) didn’t have a private pension.
  • In the UK working population as a whole, 44% don’t have a private pension. It also showed that affordability is the key factor in whether artists save for their pensions, and that artists are twice as likely as the working population as a whole to earn under £10,000 a year.
  • It is common within performing arts unions to offer pension schemes. The combination of the employer contribution and tax relief are powerful incentives for these members to opt in.
  • However, given that 50% of artists nowadays are self-employed they would be the sole contributor to their own savings. This presents a significant challenge in creating an affordable, well-adopted scheme for visual and applied artists.

Look out for more information on Joseph Young’s research and the development of an artists pensions scheme in the new year. December 2012