The Brave New Working World

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A study of “Fair Working Conditions in the Performing Arts and Music?” was published recently. Maximilian Norz of the artists’ initiative called “art but fair” in collaboration with the Hans Böckler Foundation and the Cultural Policy Association (of Germany) has researched working conditions for creative artists in the German speaking countries of Europe. The answers provided in the questionnaire show that artists have no choice but to accept certain bad conditions in their work, claims the joint press release of the Hans Böckler Foundation and “art but fair”. 

79% of those asked regard their payment as inadequate. The net income of 40% is under 10.000 euro per annum. This delicate income situation is exacerbated by the fact that 70% of musicians, dancers and actors are expected to do some work for free. Due to the modest remuneration in their field 4 of every 5 persons asked count on being poor in their old age. A further exacerbating element is the fact that many artists – dancers for instance – have to cease their professional career due to the heavy physical toll the job takes on them.

Another aggravating problem is the lack of long-term job security: 80% of those asked perceive their employment status as uncertain. Whilst between 2006 and 2011 the number of self-employed male artists grew by 25%, those of self-employed female artists by 39%, in the same period the group of men with steady employment increased by a mere 4% and that of women in the same category by only 7%. Those engaged through per-job contracts and paid via invoice (where the employee rather than the employer has to pay all taxes and social security) grew by almost a third between 2005 and 2010. 60% of those asked find that the above situation endangers a healthy balance between family and work. One third has had experience with breach of contract, abuse of power and arbitrary decisions in their workplace, while 25% claim lack of worker participation or consultation in managerial decisions. 17% have experienced mobbing and 5% have been victims of sexual harassment.

2635 active workers from the fields of music and the performing arts participated in the online study. 2160 of them are artists and 475 come from other sectors of the field, typically stage hands and technicians. 91% are active in Germany, the rest work in Austria or Switzerland. The questionnaire is not representative, but allows for qualified insight into the working conditions of artists.

Dr. Norbert Kluge, the head of the Hans Böckler Foundation’s Division for Worker Participation Subsidies thinks that the results of this research point far beyond the field of the arts. “This study provides insight into the “gig economy” so enthusiastically promoted by some digitalisation enthusiasts as the brave new working world. For so many creative artists it has long become an everyday experience. But fair working conditions or a stable social security are often missing from the repertory” – says the sociologist. Therefore, it is not only the job of cultural policy makers to guarantee adequate employment in the music and performing arts sector, but it is also closely related to the central future issues of the labour market and of social security.

English by Anna Lengyel

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