Photo credits: Foxy Dolphin

In a resolution adopted on 27 September 2021, the European Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee is calling for the establishment of common minimum standards on working conditions for artists and cultural workers.

Workers of the arts industry are especially vulnerable to economic shocks, such as those created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions on gatherings, changes in consumer behaviour, and severe unemployment have taken a devastating toll on the sector. In 2020, the cultural and creative sector in the EU experienced a turnover rate of over 30 percent, amounting to a cumulative loss of €199 billion – with the music and performing arts sectors experiencing losses of 75 percent and 90 percent respectively.

Although the decentralized and largely unregulated nature of the cultural sector is a driving force behind its diversity, it is also one reason for its vulnerability. Artists are in their vast majority freelancers who face precarious working conditions, low and unstable income, and a very weak bargaining position vis-à-vis their negotiating counterpart, as shown by a recent study on the status and the working conditions of artists and creative professionals.

But there are good examples here and there, notably in France where artists working in the live performance, film and audiovisual sectors have a special kind of unemployment insurance scheme. The compensation scheme provide a sense of financial security to artists who qualify for it, giving them room for manoeuvre to be creative.

The committee asked the Parliament to draft an EU-wide framework on working conditions and minimum standards for all artists, including digital streamers. According to a recent European Parliament study, many streaming platforms boomed with the pandemic and authors are not reaping the benefits of their success. ‘Artists are exposed to unfair practices by dominant digital streaming platforms, such as buy-out clauses that deprive authors of their royalties’, said the committee in a statement. ‘To remedy that, MEPs want the Commission and Member States to ensure artists and cultural workers have access to collective bargaining and to strongly enforce protection for works and their creators in national copyright legislation’.

The resolution also includes cross-border mobility programmes for young creators and innovators, arguing that differences in national legislation regarding legal status hinder collaboration and mobility. They’re calling on Member States and the Commission to remove all barriers to cross-border mobility, revising administrative requirements on visas, taxation, and social security, if needed, in addition to the recognition of arts-based education degrees.

The resolution from the Culture and Education Committee should face a vote by Parliament in October’s second plenary session.

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