Reshape policies to give creators adequate protections says a new UNESCO report
The pandemic has proven the intrinsic value of the cultural and creative sector at generating social cohesion, educational resource or personal well-being in times of crisis. It has also undermined the sector’s potential to generate economic growth, something which is too often underestimated.
However, this global crisis has also demonstrated the significant challenges which need to be met to ensure that a diversity of cultural expressions around the world is preserved, in line with UNESCO's 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
Ensuring the diversity of cultural expressions
A new UNESCO report, entitled, Re|Shaping Policies for Creativity, shows that development assistance devoted to culture and recreation is on the decline and although the flow of cultural goods and services globally continues to rise, there has been very little progress in addressing the vast disparity between developed and developing countries. Very strong inequalities also persist in the cultural and creative sectors, like those faced by many women.
This greatly restricts people’s exposure to the diversity of cultural expressions from around the world, at a time when there is a compelling case that diversity is a structuring element for social cohesion and peace between peoples. In turn, it limits the ability of the cultural sector – which accounts for 3.1% of global GDP and 6.2% of all employment - to drive sustainable economic growth in developing countries.
Unprecedented collapse in income and employment in the sector
UNESCO estimates that 10 million jobs were lost in the creative industries in 2020 alone because of the pandemic. It has also calculated that the global Gross Value Added in the cultural and creative industries contracted by US$750bn in 2020. In countries for which data is available, the revenue of the cultural and creative industries decreased by between 20% and 40%.
Public expenditure worldwide in the creative industries declined in the years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic which in turn led to an unprecedented collapse in income and employment in the sector, magnifying the already precarious working conditions of many artists and cultural professionals around the globe.
The social security net for artists in many countries was already inadequate, however the pandemic has exposed just how vulnerable workers in the cultural and creative sectors are.
Bring protection of cultural workers in line with that of the general workforce
The report calls on governments to ensure economic and social protection for artists and cultural professionals, which people working in many other sectors already benefit from. It proposes, for example, to consider establishing a minimum wage in cultural employment, as well as better pension and sick pay plans for freelancers.
And whilst it recognises the opportunities from the accelerated shift of cultural content and performances towards digital platforms, this report highlights the urgent need to design fairer remuneration systems for artists for content consumed online. Digital revenues do not make up for the sharp drop in income caused by the lack of live events.