COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
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The Law setting up a Social Security Insurance Fund for Artists was amended again in 2015, enhancing the eligibility guidelines for access to unemployment funds.

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Austria/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.4 Social security frameworks

For a long time there were no specific regulations to ensure that social security provisions for artists reached across all professional fields. Only artists in the music and visual arts sectors were covered by the obligatory social security provisions. All other artists were free to enrol in a social security insurance plan of their choice. Several funds were created to help artists pay part of their (non-obligatory) social security insurance, the KünstlerhilfeFonds for visual artists, for example (see chapter 8.1.2).

The Employment and Social Security Law Amendment Act (1997) produced an initial change: up until 1997, artists had widely differing social security coverage, depending on their professional status, nature of labour relations and field of work. This amendment generally regulated labour conditions and required contracts for all freelance workers in the form of either a Werkvertrag (contract for work) - also called the "new" self-employed, a term that describes one person enterprises without a trade licence - or a freierDienstvertrag (self-employed contract of service), depending on the nature of the work (people who work under the freierDienstvertrag have more social protection than the self employed, but less than the employed).

Following this amendment, anyone earning over 6 453 EUR per year was forced to pay social security insurance. Artists were exempt from this Law until the end of 2000 and were not obliged to pay social security insurance. Those who chose to pay the insurance could apply to the above mentioned funds, like KünstlerhilfeFonds (see chapter 8.1.2) to help cover the costs of their social security fees.

Artists have been comparatively successful in creating, improving and consolidating lobbies for themselves. Authors and translators in particular, as well as cultural initiatives, and to some extent independent theatre groups, cinematographers and media artists have been able to create associations and interest groups to represent them in public, to lobby for more funds and commissions, to fight for legal and social improvements and for the maintenance of artistic freedom. Among their major achievements has been an improvement in the flow of information on market opportunities and mutual communication among artists. As to their social security status, several reforms and improvements (copyright, social security scheme for artists and other social benefits) have been achieved by umbrella organisations, interest groups and collecting societies.

2001 the Law on Social Security for Artists (Künstler-Sozialversicherungsfondsgesetz) came into force (since 2011 it has been called the Artist's Social-Security Insurance Structure Act) and freelance artists are treated the same as other self-employed professionals, which means they must pay their statutory social security insurance if they earn more than 6 453 EUR per annum. In many cases, the new Law created a situation whereby artists end up making two different types of social insurance payments: statutory insurance for freelance work and any other social security insurance payments which result from other part-time employment contracts they may have. As many freelance artists are employed both part-time and do freelance work, the contribution to the social security system is relatively high compared to total income. There was a change here in 2009, and indeed one that applies for those cases in which additional to self-employment there is a further income: if this income exceeds the threshold of EUR 4 871.76 (2015, the amount is being adopted annually) it will also be subject to the obligatory social insurance payments.

The Law set up a Social Security Insurance Fund for Artists (Künstlersozialversicherungs-Fonds) which grants artists a subsidy for social insurance contributions of up to EUR 143.50 per month (1 722 per year in 2015), if their annual income from artistic activity is at least EUR 4 872 (2015) and the sum of all their income does not exceed EUR 26 388.70 (2015) annually. This amount increases for each child. The subsidy for social insurance contributions is based on self-evaluation of future income. If either of the above limits is not achieved, or is exceeded, the subsidy has to be paid back. Each year about 4 500 to 5 000 artists receive this subsidy; about 20% do not reach the minimum level.

The artists' social insurance has had two results: on the one hand, a service centre for artists that offers advice and support for social-security issues has been established. The second change concerns the opportunity for artists to register their self-employed activity and the resulting obligatory insurance as being idle, so that they have access to benefits from unemployment insurance. In 2015 the law was amended again: to achieve the minimum level of income, since 2014 all earnings are taken into account (before, only income minus expenses was taken into account), including up to 50% income from sideline business (education, teaching in the cultural field etc.). The period for the averaging of the minimum income was expanded to three years, and five bonus years are conceded, during which a subsidy can be received without a repayment obligation, even if the minimum income is not achieved.

See also comparative information provided in the Compendium "Themes!" section under "Status of Artists".


Chapter published: 02-02-2016

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