The situation of artists & cultural workers | New study

April 1, 2021, 3:10 pm

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated pre-existing trends, including unprecedented income loss, growing precariousness, and inequalities in the European cultural ecosystem. Facing destitution, many workers may leave the sector and thousands of institutions may close. With them, accumulated knowledge and skills would be permanently lost, and the cultural ecosystem would be profoundly weakened. A solution to tackle this challenge includes strengthening the status of artists and cultural workers and, with it, the resilience of the sector.

The CULT Committee of the European Parliament is now taking stock of this complex subject with an own-initiative report on the situation of artists and cultural workers and the cultural recovery in the EU, which will be presented in the committee at the end of May. In this frame, Culture Action Europe, together with the independent researcher Mafalda Dâmaso, has developed a background analysis for the Parliament’s Research Service, which is now available online.

The study provides an overview of the key characteristics of artists’ and cultural workers’ status across Europe, their working conditions, and career paths. Among the main factors that lead to the precariousness of artists and cultural workers, the study underlines the non-standard nature of their working conditions, status and income, and artists’ propensity for cross border mobility (which includes atypical situations that aren’t easily translated into pre-existing categories associated with visas, social protection or taxation).

By summarising the main profiles of the relevant competencies of the EU, this background analysis tries to outline the available instruments (both legislative and non-legislative) in the EU’s toolbox to adopt a comprehensive policy approach towards a European Framework for working conditions in the cultural and creative sectors and industries, as called for by the European Parliament in its Resolution on the Cultural Recovery of Europe from September 2020. 

This would entail an articulation with relevant EU policies on competition, the internal market, social policy, fundamental rights and equality, among others, and initiatives such as the transposition of the 2019 copyright directive. 

Among the most relevant issues, the study suggests that a European Framework might introduce a comprehensive and common approach to ‘artistic work’ and ‘cultural work’ across the Member States and EU policy-making, also in line with UNESCO documents. It could also address the need for minimum standards and minimum requirements for the working conditions in the cultural and creative sectors, to tackle structural inequalities throughout the EU, which may ultimately undermine European cultural diversity. 

The topic of the working conditions in the cultural and creative sectors has been in the spotlight lately. It will also be discussed in an upcoming Voices of Culture structured dialogue which will be kicked off at the end of April.