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Action Group on Working Conditions in the Cultural and Creative Sectors

The pandemic exacerbated the difficult financial situation faced by many artists and cultural creators. According to a report from early 2021, revenues in the cultural and creative sectors plunged by 31,2% in 2020 compared to 2019. It was hit even harder than tourism, which lost 27% of its income. As a result of the pandemic, in the last few years, many professionals have been leaving the sector and institutions altogether. With them, accumulated talent, knowledge, and skills have been permanently lost, and the cultural and creative ecosystem has been profoundly weakened.

Against this backdrop, calls have gained wide support to strengthen the working conditions of artists and cultural workers and, with them, the sector’s resilience. The idea, supported by several key decision-makers at the national and European levels, is to tackle this topic in a coordinated and coherent fashion. Culture Action Europe has been at the forefront of these calls from civil society.

Following up on the study done by Panteia and the EENC in 2020 as part of the Council Work Plan for Culture 2019-2022, supported by expert consultations with cultural and network stakeholders organised by Culture Action Europe, in March 2021, Culture Action Europe published a background analysis on the situation of artists and cultural workers and the post-COVID-19 cultural recovery in the European Union, commissioned by the European Parliament. The study provided an overview of key characteristics of artists’ and cultural workers’ status across Europe, their working conditions, precariousness, and career paths, outlining the justification for specific policy solutions and providing a mapping of key challenges for a European framework for working conditions in the cultural and creative sectors. 

The EU can take measures to ensure that its Member States coordinate their economic, social, and employment policies at the EU level, and put in place coherent and complementary policies that can protect artists and cultural workers. In 2017, for example, the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to ensuring better living and working conditions throughout the bloc, as recalled in 2021 by the Porto Social Summit. In the meantime, the EU has been spearheading work on modernising labour legislation, including platform work and minimum wage across the Union. It has also adapted its competition law framework in order to tear down old barriers and allow collective bargaining for self-employed workers, such as artists and creatives. 

The European Union enjoys little competence in the field of culture, which is still deemed to be at the core of national sovereignty and preserved by rigorous respect for the principle of subsidiarity that inspires the very foundation of the EU. However, the topic of working conditions in the cultural and creative sectors proves to be a hybrid one, at the crossroads of cultural and social policy. It is a promising testing ground for creative public policy solutions at the EU level, which refute the one-size-fits-all tendency but offer the opportunity for the EU to step up to its game and upgrade its policies with a view to break down silos and set out shared and coherent rules to safeguard a specific sector.

In the run-up to the preparation of the European Parliament joint report on the “Framework for the social and professional situation of artists and workers in the cultural and creative sectors,” the CAE members part of the Working Group on working conditions in the CCS, representative of the diversity of the network, met four times (25 May, 20 June, 7 July, 8 September 2023) to monitor the progress in the political debate, in light of the contacts with the involved MEPs and political groups,  and to propose amendments to improve the text.

The Action Group on Working Conditions met on 25 May, 20 June, 7 July, and 8 September 2023.

You can read the Summary of Outcomes from the Action Group on Working Conditions in the Cultural and Creative Sectors here.