Research: Slovenian Cultural and Creative Worker in Times of COVID-19 – part II, autumn 2020

Between 29 September and 25 October 2020, when the second lockdown in Slovenia began, 1,578 workers from all key subfields of the cultural and creative sectors participated in the second, autumn survey on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on their work and life. Like in spring, the survey targeted all workers, regardless of their legal status: students, contract workers, the self-employed in culture, private entrepreneurs, those employed in companies, private institutions, associations
and cooperatives, those employed in public institutions as well as unregistered workers.

The autumn results confirm our spring predictions that a number of worker profiles would be at risk and the situation in both sectors would deteriorate rapidly:

1. The workers estimate that business in the cultural and creative sectors in 2020 will decrease by nearly 40% compared to 2019. As at the end of September, the average business losses amounted to EUR 16,582, and another EUR 9,540 in earnings is expected to be lost by the end of 2020.

2. The most affected fields were identified back in spring. These are: cultural and creative tourism, film and audio/video, music, performance arts, photography, and fashion and textile design. At least three quarters of workers in these fields have seen their monthly incomes drop or drop considerably.

3. 57.7% of workers earn up to EUR 1,000 net per month. Only 17.3% have a monthly income of more than EUR 1,500. Two thirds of workers have seen their incomes drop or drop considerably this year. 70% of households incomes have also dropped or dropped considerably.

4. Nearly one in five workers is currently out of work, 40% of workers have some work but not enough, and another 40% do not have guaranteed work until the end of the year. Three quarters of all workers have already received cancellations since the beginning of the epidemic.

5. The most precarious workers are also the least paid, their incomes having gone down the most as a result of the epidemic. A growing gap between workers in safer, public jobs and precarious self-employed workers has been detected.

6. Four out of ten workers are not entitled to Government support even though they need it or have received insufficient support. A third of them have asked their loved ones for a loan to survive their financial hardships.

7. On a five-point scale, 56.8% of workers estimate the Government measures aimed at helping the two sectors as insufficient (1) and a further 28.6% as sufficient (2). According to them, the Government measures deliberately ignore and discriminate against the cultural and creative sectors, while the Ministry of Culture, instead of providing assistance, is putting off urgent tasks, thereby causing the workers even greater distress.

8. The workers think that the effects of the crisis will be more numerous and far-reaching than the financial crisis a decade ago and do not believe that the epidemic will be behind us in 2021. They report experiencing various psychosocial and economic difficulties: feelings of fear and anxiety, exhaustion, meaninglessness and loneliness. More and more of them are being pushed into poverty, trying to make every euro count, finding it difficult to pay rent and essential bills.

9. The autumn results confirm the low dependence of the two sectors on public funding identified in spring. In 2019, 18.3% of sources of earning were calls for applications on the local, state and EU levels, while 70.1% of revenue was generated through the sale of products and services. Another 11.3% of sales revenue was financed indirectly from calls for applications. In short, even counting the indirect financing of sales, the dependence of the cultural and creative sectors on calls for applications is a low 29.6%, which refutes the common belief about the sectors’ great dependence on public funding.

10. To make a living, nearly one in three workers have to do other work not related to their profession. In one half of the cases, these jobs are outside the cultural and creative sectors. The most common examples include hospitality jobs, nursing and care, cleaning, sales, teaching, administrative work and various physical and delivery jobs.

11. The workers stressed the necessity of coming up with and implementing further solutions for the speedy recovery of the two sectors. The prerequisite to finding the appropriate solution is establishing good communication between sector advocates and the Government (or the Ministry of Culture). They propose many concrete solutions to incentivise the sectors, the most common being: introducing vouchers for culture, implementing the universal basic income for all citizens without any additional conditions and temporary tax reliefs that will facilitate the sectors’ recovery.

Recommendations

The conclusion at the end of the spring survey being that Slovenian artists had led modest lives even before the crisis, mostly living hand to mouth, and that many people would find themselves – and some already had – in a difficult financial situation, it was recommended that action be taken before the summer to save the cultural and creative sectors. The autumn data shows that the support measures have been insufficient and, combined with the strict rules on organising cultural events, devastating for numerous fields and workers.

With winter right around the corner, many people, the precarious workers of the cultural and creative sectors in particular, have found themselves just above the poverty line. These are not profiles who generate a low added value but are, on average, extremely well educated and qualified individuals who, with the right encouragement, can enrich society on various levels. The future of labour often being portrayed as automated, robotised, creative professions will be the most difficult to replace by machines. The cultural and creative sectors are therefore developed and encouraged in far- sighted countries, as the latter are aware that this area is the key to a successful future of labour. These countries have provided substantial support for the cultural and creative sectors during the Covid-19 epidemic, the two representing large numbers of self- employed workers who are the first to suffer the consequences of such economic shocks and the most affected by them.

This is not a call for giving the cultural and creative sectors special treatment during the Covid-19 epidemic in Slovenia. It merely provides food for thought about affording equal treatment and assistance to the two sectors that, beside hospitality and tourism, were most affected by the epidemic. It is a call for immediate state and local incentives to support the sectors that represent 7% of all workers in Slovenia who, according to the Centre for Creativity and the Institute for Economic Research*, generated a nearly three billion euros in 2017, i.e. more than the entire chemical industry.

Although culture cannot be measured only in euros, the data shows that culture certainly pays off.

 

*Murovec, N., Kavaš, D., Bartol, T., 2020. Statistična analiza stanja kulturnega in kreativnega sektorja v Sloveniji 2008–2017. Ljubljana: Center za kreativnost, Muzej za arhitekturo in oblikovanje.