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The OMC report reveals the EU-wide state of play of working conditions in the cultural sector

The report published in July by the Open Method of Coordination group of EU Member States' experts sheds light to the status and working conditions of artists and cultural and creative professionals.

By Creatives Unite Newsroom
November 11, 2023


The Creatives Unite platform features stories and interviews with artists, culture, and creative professionals from various countries in the EU. The platform highlights the shared challenges they face and how mobility, cooperation, and integration can strengthen cultural, artistic, and creative production.

Status of the Artist: six key points of the EU snapshot

The Open Method Coordination (OMC) working group comprised representatives from all 27 EU Member States, encompassing a mix of experts in the domains of culture and social affairs. As part of the process, experts were asked to complete a survey on different aspects of working conditions in CCSs in their respective country 1 . Here are a few key points we can glean from analyzing the survey results.

1. There is some form of status for artists in most EU countries

In the majority of EU Member States, there is a policy framework or legal structure that defines the status of artists, which can pertain to areas such as social security, taxation, employment, funding, official recognition, and more. Many of these systems primarily focus on social security or taxation. Specifically, 18 countries have established dedicated social security provisions for artists through specific laws or legal frameworks, and 13 countries have implemented special tax regimes for artistic income.

2. Different art sectors and professionals have relatively equal access to the 'artist status', with non-artist workers being the least covered.

While there may be an imbalance of support for various creative sub-sectors in some countries, in the overall EU-wide context, writers, composers, choreographers, as well as performing, visual, and audiovisual artists have relatively equal access to most existing status types. Performing artists and professionals in the audiovisual sectors benefit the most from social security systems, while the status related to taxation primarily covers visual artists, writers, and composers. Non-artist professionals, such as technicians, are the least covered by the various existing status frameworks.

Status of the artist: Access By Sector and Profession

  • Writers, Composers, Choriographers (40)
  • Performing Artists (38)
  • Audio Visual Artists (38)
  • Visual Artists (37)
  • None-Artist Professionals (eg. Technicians) (22)
  • Other ( )

1 The survey was not mandatory, so not all questions were answered by all 27 experts.

Image 1: 25 respondents had the option to select one or multiple categories of professionals who have access to one or several different status types in their country (six types in total). There were a total of 178 options selected (excluding 'not applicable' responses). Category ‘Writers, composers, and choreographers' was chosen 40 times, while 'audiovisual artists' and 'performing artists' each received 38 selections, and ‘visual artists’ was selected 37 times. Non-artist professionals were mentioned 22 times.

3. Proof of activity and income are the most frequently applied criteria; diploma in the arts is the least applied

The majority of status-related schemes center on individuals' actual activity within the sector, including its duration or publicly available outputs, and place less emphasis on ranking elements related to recognition, such as received prizes and awards, or education.

Proof of income generated from artistic activities, along with the corresponding tax payments, is also an important eligibility criterion for many programs. It is not only about having earned a required minimum, but in some cases, it is also about not having earned enough - often with a requirement to demonstrate that the reasons for this were beyond one's control.

Artistic quality is not a major criterion in the EU-wide snapshot, even though it is still considered in many programmes. A diploma in the arts is the least frequently considered factor. Only a few 'status of the artist' schemes have special strands or conditions for career entrants.

Status of the artist:Access Criteria

  • Proof of artistic activities (34)
  • Proof of income (28)
  • membership in an association (18)
  • Artistic quality (17)
  • Education (9)
  • Other (10)

Image 2: 25 respondents had the option to select one or multiple access criteria applied to six different status types. A total of 116 selections were made (excluding 'not applicable' and 'other'). 'Proof of artistic activity' was selected 34 times, 'proof of income' received 28 selections, while 'membership in a professional association' and 'artistic quality' were chosen 18 and 17 times, respectively. 'Proof of relevant education' was mentioned 9 times.

4. Government agencies are the most involved in granting artists' status

In the majority of countries, a blended decision-making system is in place, which involves a mixed body or the assessment of applications in steps by various stakeholders. Government agencies are the most involved in granting artists' status, particularly concerning social security and taxation frameworks. Peer commissions are primarily involved in assessing applications for grants and subsidies, although in some countries, they also participate in granting access to social security systems. In very few cases, decisions are made by independent non-governmental bodies.

Decision - Making

  • Government and its Agencies (28)
  • Peer Commissions (19)
  • Independent Bodies (4)
  • Other (16)

Image 3: 25 respondents had the option to select one or multiple stakeholders granting access to six different status types. A total of 67 selections were made (excluding 'not applicable'). 'A commission of professionals’ was selected 19 times, 'an administrative department' received 28 selections, while 'independent body' and 'other' were chosen 4 and 16 times, respectively.

5. Having an official register dedicated to artists and creative professionals is not very common, but some changes are underway

Out of the 25 respondents, 18 said their country does not have a register of artists or creative professionals; however, five countries are in the process of developing one. The majority of existing registers are used for granting various types of financial support, and only a few are also dedicated to research purposes. In a number of countries, artists and cultural professionals are registered as part of a nation-wide statistical system, while in many states, professional associations develop and manage lists of their members.

6. Social security frameworks specific to artists mostly cover unemployment and pension-related benefits

Social security frameworks for artists and cultural professionals offer a diverse range of benefits, with unemployment insurance and various pension provisions being the most commonly offered across all frameworks in place in the EU member states. This is often in recognition of the irregular nature of artists’ work and income. Work accident insurance is the least covered by existing frameworks for artists.

Social security contributions are obligatory for the majority of frameworks, and they are primarily paid by artists themselves. In about a third of the cases, contributions are covered by the state, and a few programmes apply a mixed system, in which the government supplements artists’ payments.

Social security types

  • Unemployment (10)
  • Health (9)
  • Basic Pension (9)
  • Disability (8)
  • Sickness (7)
  • Before-pension supplement (7)
  • Maternity/Paternity (6)
  • Training/Carrer transition (6)
  • Supplementary pension (6)
  • Work accident (5)

Image 4: 25 respondents had the option to select one or multiple social security benefits / types that are available in their country as part of a specific system for artists. A total of 74 selections were made (excluding 'other').

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Photo by daisy on Unsplash

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