The Covid-19 crisis has proved devastating for the cultural and creative sectors. Lockdowns and social distancing measures have made work as usual impossible for professionals in the sector, and many find themselves falling through the gaps of social protection. Precarity, however, is not new for many of those working in arts and culture.
Elena Polivtseva connects the impacts of the pandemic to a longer-term failure to adequately address the working conditions of cultural professionals, calling for EU action to help protect the sector’s future.
Culture has been high on the EU’s agenda for the last few years, with its value recognised in key areas including economic development, social cohesion, and international relations. At the same time, it has been over a decade since efforts were made to establish a comprehensive outlook of the working conditions of artists and cultural professionals. The sector is today characterised by a high level of precarity among its workers: low and unstable incomes, increasingly complex professional statuses, and limited access to social security and benefits.
The harmful impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the cultural sector, especially the live arts, reveals structural problems which can no longer be disregarded.
The current situation has brought many issues in the cultural sector to the surface, most of which are closely related to the atypical character of the work of artists and cultural professionals. One of the reasons behind the non-standard nature of this work is the high unpredictability of the final outcome of an artistic process and its reception by the audience.
An EU action with the aim of improving the working conditions of artists and cultural professionals would be a significant boost for EU cultural cooperation, which is so important for European unity and the future of the European project. It is essential that citizens get acquainted not only with local and national artistic offers, but also with culture and arts from other countries. There has been a great patchwork of measures taken by national governments in support of the cultural sector since the pandemic began. Some countries have invested a lot in their artists, while others left the artistic community to be “resilient”. There have already been huge discrepancies between levels and forms of support to the cultural sector across the EU, and Covid-19 will create even bigger cracks in the EU cultural landscape. In the future, this will have a negative impact on pan-European cultural collaboration (touring, co-productions, transborder projects, and so on).
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