Labour and working conditions

The nature of work is mutating. As a result of extreme externalisation and freelancing, the gig economy, employment practices in the new platform capitalism have led to growing inequality. The cultural sector has pioneered many unsustainable working practices and cultural workers have been at the avant-garde for a precariousness now reaching other sectors. Work based on passion is not work, some say, and hence, should not be remunerated. Welfare states remain national while we observe growing cross-national mobility, and new digital, decentralised working patterns facilitated by digital global monopolies. This generates a gap not yet addressed. What can be done?

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  • They are a barrier for many people to engage in careers in the art. In the UK students are already leaving university with high debt, to then work for nothing and get in more debt is not possible for many people. It is immoral that the sector is propped up by unpaid work and perpetuates a sector that is homogeneous in the way it works, who works in it, and how engages with artists and audiences. 

    • I totally agree with Julie. Perhaps voluntary work is more suitable for people who have a well paid job (cultural or not) and who, in their free time, are interested in collaborating with cultural institutions.

  • What about unpaid internships in the arts? Do they help or hinder?

  • I read this week of the significant increase in what are being called 'slashes' - people who have multiple jobs and therefore are known as (for example) shopworker/courier. As people choose to live more flexibly (or are forced to), is there an opportunity here to be able to involve more young people in experiencing cultural heritage in ways they could later develop into full careers, or as volunteers?

    • I agree - and I have done it myself - to have more than one job at the same time. But there is a trend away from 'careers for life' towards fixed-term contracts and more mobile/versatile careers and lifestyles. There also is a trend for more people to choose to work less than full time. My question really is whether this can offer 'quality of life' opportunities, not just economic survival. One consequence is that we are seeing significant growth in volunteering in some countries: this can be life-enhancing, but it can be exploited. Volunteers are not a substitute for employees.

    • This is an interesting observation and I like the idea of working less and quality of life, I hope that this can become a reality for many rather than the few.

    • Hello Graham, I graduated from art school a long time ago and I think there have always been ‘slashes’ actor/waiter, artist/cleaner however one half of the slash was never mentioned. In these days it is hard to hide what you really have to do to maintain a creative practice. In terms of engaging young people in the creative sector it is absolutely necessary but to ensure equity and diversity we need to show paid career routes.

    • Sorry, Graham, i do not understand your comment, could you develop your argument. Thank.

    • Hallo Graham, hallo Montserrat, I was also wondering about your interesting comment, Graham, thank you! Do you mean voluntary services in the cultural field, such as for instace kulturweit? I am definitely a big fan of such schemes and opportunities --- but how does it help to have more sustainable working conditions in culture?

    • Yes, kulturweit is one 'hybrid' between employment and education that helps young people find their role in society using cultural heritage. But the opportunities are about lifelong learning, not just young people. I am thinking about people whose employment contract has ended, about people taking early retirement, about corporate social responsibility where corporations allow their employees to spend time using their skills to support communities. All these are ways the EU could stimulate a more diverse economy without exploitation.

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