Work opportunities 4.0 in the cultural/arts sector as a result of a changing and innovating Europe

From 29 to 31 July 2018 took place in Doorn / Netherlands a seminar about “Work opportunities 4.0 in the cultural/arts sector as a result of a changing and innovating Europe” organized by Association Christian Artists with the support of EZA and of the European Union. The seminar was a continuation and concretization of previous CA seminars.

This seminar gave new insights and very practical help to the workers in the sector arts/culture as unemployment has become very high. Besides the contributions of 7 speakers, life interviews took place with artists from different sectors (music, visual arts, new media art).

162 Participants came from 19 countries. For 40% of the participants it was the first time they visited the CA/EZA seminar. 31% were in the age group 19-30 years:

LECTURES were among others given by Judith Stevenson, former college Senior Tutor at Durham University, (UK/Scotland); Dr Teddy Liho,lecturer ingraphic arts, design and new media at theAcademia of Sofia, Bulgaria; Alexandra Smith, ZZP-Nederland (the trade union of the self-employed in the Netherlands), Dr Lasma Licite, lecturer in social entrepreneurship, business ethics management and human resources at theLatvia University of Agriculture, entrepreneurship and communication). Dr Paul Dondersfounder of the International coaching institute X-Pand (Germany, NL, South Africa, etc); Dr Geoffrey Stevensonlecturer in media literacy at theUniversity of Edinburgh, UK.

FACTS, CONCLUSIONS AND SUGGESTIONS which resulted from the debates:

  1. The disappearance of the employers. With the start of the crisis in 2008, governments, counties and city-councils started to make major cuts in their culture/arts budgets. Who were not hurt? the national orchestras, the national museums, the national ballets, the national operas and such. This is the art sector for the elites. Here the work opportunities stayed more or less stable. If you work in this sector, you will be employed for several years. Only now and then do they need a replacement.  Who were hurt? The level below these national levels, so the production houses who put so many bands, choirs, small theatres and exhibitions on the road, giving work to the majority of artists/cultural workers. As these production houses disappeared very many artists/cultural workers became unemployed. The effect of city councils and their budget cuts: less money to local culture centres… less money or not at all for local music schools, local dance schools, local theatres… The result: for example, in the Netherlands, 50% of all the local music schools, theatre companies, etc have been closed, literally thousands of music teachers, dance teachers, actors, fine arts teachers became unemployed. 60% of the galleries closed. And as such persons have a strong natural drive to create, make music, dance, play etc, they were forced into self-employment.
  2. The problem of collective bargains. The national orchestras, the national museums, the national ballets, the national operas, the national media all have collective bargains. The remainder of local music schools and arts centres do have in most cases collective bargains. Before 2008 collective bargains existed also with the production houses and that secured fair incomes and all the other important social benefits. With the disappearance of these small contract partners (=the production houses), fair play, fair pay and social security also disappeared. These small production houses have been essential for a lot of work and decent pay, including all the solidarity taxes
  3. PROBLEMS of the self-employed:
    1. Low income: Recent reports (Deutsche Musikrat, SER (Social Economic Council) Netherlands and notes from participants from other countries) show that the yearly income of a self-employed artist/cultural worker dropped to a YEAR average of 9.000 – 15.000 Euro, example of a musician or songwriter. Before the crisis it was possible to have a reasonable income with 125 gigs a year. NOW you need at least 250 gigs a year as all gigs are very poorly paid. Effects: increasing stress, increasing tiredness because of all that needed travel. When ill, you need to go on. Families are falling apart… no money to pay insurance, even health care, pension. SUGGESTION 1: Here the trade-unions can help to offer or negotiate for cheap insurance, retirement provision and such. ZZP-Nederland, FNV, Deutsche Musikrat are active in those fields. SUGGESTION 2: Legislation that will equalise the hourly payment: a self-employed person should get the same per hour as an employed person. Here again trade unions MUST step in to secure this, otherwise their members may become unemployed. This legislation can be linked to the recent legislation where workers coming from eastern Europe, working in the west must be equally paid per hour as workers/citizens in those western countries.
    2. INCREASING CHANCES FOR DECENT PAY/WORK: Out of the lectures, life interviews, debates and working groups it become clear that self-employed cultural workers/artists can do a lot themselves to create better chances for work/income. SUGGESTION 1. It has been proven that when you develop NEW personal added values (using new technologies, crossovers with other art forms, start cooperation projects with other arts/artists) the chances for work increase. Life-long learning is a must for the cultural/arts sector. Just graduating from a conservatory or academy is not enough. SUGGESTION 2: Entering life-long learning and participating in innovating technical courses. SUGGESTION 3: Over recent years it is proven that a lot of new work is generated by NETWORKS. So, the strong advice to the sector is: dare to leave your studio, training rooms and INVEST time to participate in new networks, especially to crossover with other art forms different from your own. An interesting example are the working groups and communities of practice that have been started at the Christian Artists Seminars: they started to function as well as new networks, and are proving to generate new work. SUGGESTION 4: Sometimes younger artists have a real need for coaching by more experienced peers. Christian Artists provided access to an interesting list of very professional and experienced art tutors: see www.christianartists-academy.org . It is self-supporting, as trade union CA does not see itself as the mediator. So here can be found professional help. It is suggested that more trade unions create such possibilities for the self-employed. In some way ZZP-Nederland helps such connections too in other sectors.
    3. Retirement: reports show that self-employed hardly save for retirement. SUGGESTION: 1. Legislation is needed, that by law self-employed persons have to save a percentage of their income for future retirement. 2. Trade unions should open up their retirement funds of employed persons to accept a new money-stream coming from the self-employed.
  4. The problem of the curriculums in the art sector. From the various trade unions for artists/cultural workers and from many participants came real complaints about the content of the curriculums of academia and conservatoria, dance colleges, theatre schools etc. Students must be prepared for the really harsh world outside of the education-system. They will be self-employed, and that harsh world is full of competition, low pay, too many working hours, no retirement, no money for insurance, and no welfare when there is no work, as well as increasing health risks. SUGGESTION: Curriculums needs to be modified and should include solid preparation to become self-employed in the labour market. Here trade-unions should lobby with the curriculum-commissions and national politics to get these entrepreneur modules included in the curriculum. No student should leave the education and getting his/her degree unless they have been prepared for a life as self-employed artists/cultural worker. Trade unions can offer special courses to deal with all these problems in this sector, how to survive, how to manage, plan, promote, negotiate. Courses for that are already given by ZZP-Nederland and by Christian Artists trade union. These courses prove to be of great help.
  5. Challenge for the trade unions. Trade unions are used to organise workers who are employees. In the world of self-employment TOO often trade-unions think that every self-employed person is an entrepreneur. For sure there are a good number of self-employed by personal CHOICE, who are by nature of by training entrepreneurs. In these cases, the attitude of trade unions about these self-employed can be understood. BUT almost nobody who is a self-employed cultural worker/artist chooses this status; they were FORCED into this. SUGGESTION: that is the reason that trade unions should take the step to organise self-employed cultural workers/artists. In the Netherlands this happened with FNV and CNV/Christian Artists. Trade unions can advise their members about safety, health, and can help with collective cheaper insurances, retirement plans, additional education/life-long learning, etc.
  6. Finally, innovation: many participants confirmed: if I do not innovate, I will hardly get work. But to innovate, it should be possible. The above-mentioned hindrances are blocking innovation. Trade unions should use their lobby’s and contacts to improve the mentioned situations, so we get fair opportunities to innovate as workers. Innovation should happen in the arts/culture sector as moving on as it has been doing over the last 50 years is a dead end and with enlarged problems as result of the crisis. So, what we concluded is that innovation is the key to get new work and fair job situations. Second: insufficiently artists/cultural workers find/have access to innovation sources. And here lies a real challenge for trade unions to help their members. Secondly, we can learn a lot from the many new start-ups in the ICT/Social media sector. One may find examples of start-ups in Europe. In Milano there are start-ups in design and fashion, linked to the large fashion companies and academy, in Munich technical start-ups linked with the universities and some companies, in Eindhoven starts-ups in the areas of design, linked with the Philips campus and university, in Wageningen there are starts-ups in agriculture and high-tech food, linked with the university, in Delft high-tech start-ups linked with the technical campus. What it proves is, that it is time that academies and conservatories join forces with young talents to create/make possible start-ups in the creative/cultural sectors. Too long those bodies have been doing like they have been teaching for 100 years. Those old views may result in a good skilled and trained violist or painter, but will not create work. Our fast-changing society needs a ‘start up’ mentality among the cultural workers/artists. Workers in the sector arts/culture should see themselves as ‘start-ups’. So, a challenge for a mentality change. Here artists organizations should help to get that challenge to their members.