5 May 2021
STUDY PAPER

The art of survival:

Slovenian cultural and creative workers in the time
of the COVID-19 epidemic

by Eva Matjaž and Teja Kosi 

illustration Agate Lielpetere

»If there is one lesson we can take from this forced stop, it is mostly about how thin the ice our cultural workers are on really is, and how any crisis will just mow them down.«

»The policies of our current government are extraordinarily harmful to culture, and appear closer to an intentional extermination of culture, than an effort to provide aid.«

respondents from the »Slovenian Cultural and Creative Worker in Times of COVID-19« research

Summary

The cultural and creative sectors (CCS), were among those hardest-hit by the COVID-19 crisis. This prompted the team of Poligon Creative Centre to immediately take on longitudinal tracking of its effect on cultural and creative workers in Slovenia. Based on the research, which included two surveys – in spring and autumn 2020 – with 3.099 respondents from the ranks of Slovenian cultural and creative workers, the article analyzes the characteristics of non-work and business during the time of the epidemic, the views and coping mechanisms of the workers and their chances of getting through it. Our analysis shows how cultural and creative workers already lead modest lifestyles before 2020, with the COVID-19 crisis radically changing their situation for the worse. The most endangered of all are the workers in highly precarious forms of employment (those employed through the “Student Work” instrument, contract workers, unregistered workers and self-employed cultural workers with subsidized social contributions), who are already the lowest-paid and have seen their incomes drop even further. Government aid measures have consistently let them down, leading to a drastic increase in the discrepancy between the workers in public, safer employment positions and those in precarious forms of employment. The alarming state of cultural and creative sectors in Slovenia calls for the planning and implementation of solutions on both national and EU levels. On the national level, alongside the solutions proposed by the survey respondents (establishing efficient communication between sector advocates and the government, vouchers for culture1, universal basic income, temporary tax relief…), vital measures would include the introduction of well-calibrated actions for slowing the COVID-19 epidemic, equal treatment of CCS when compared to other sectors and an increase in local and national funds, which already represent an exceptionally small part of funding. At the same time, due to the means of operation of the Slovenian Government and its general attitude towards culture – described by The New York Times as “a cultural war” (Marshall, 2021), ensuring government-independent European financial aid, remains crucial.