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Denmark/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.9 Employment policies for the cultural sector

In Denmark there are no special employment policies for the cultural sector. The employment policies for art and culture follow the current Danish labour laws, which are valid for all Danes regardless of their profession (see chapter 5.1.4, chapter 5.1.5 and chapter 5.1.6).

Since the Ministry of Culture was established in 1961, social welfare programmes like supplementary support during periodic unemployment has been a primary source of income for the water carriers of the arts and culture world, that is, the many creative and performing artists who struggle to make a living on the culture market's terms in a small society like Denmark. Furthermore, cultural economic studies verify that there is a great deal of difference between how well the various artforms succeed in the market economy. 

A permanent problem for creative and performing artists is that they are rarely without work, but often without income. Over a number of years, this has made artists and cultural experts point to the need for creating a so-called Fund for non income-benefit in the social and labour market legislation.  

On the other hand, politicians in charge of the labour market policy have rejected this proposal on numerous occasions, with the argument that this would create special rules for artists, undermining the universal nature of equality in the welfare state philosophy.

From the point of view of artists and cultural institutions, legislation and management of the unemployment system should respect the fact that artists, being freelancers, have different working conditions than people with a regular income ( Nyhedsbrev, Dansk Kunstnerråd (New, The Danish Council of Artists) vol. 59, November 2007.

According to the Danish Council of Artists, the new rules in the social framework of Labour legislation will push many artists out of their chosen profession and into other jobs. As the Danish Arts Council argues: "Artists should not be considered elite citizens compared to people in other job sectors. But society needs good art as a dynamo for both spiritual and economic development." (see:

On other occasions the idea of specific benefits targeted at artists has foundered on pragmatic questions such as:

  • What is the definition of an artist vis-a-vis unemployment benefit rules?
  • How do you define the rules of availability and unemployment for artists who often have to do "invisible work" as a part of the process of creating new works of art?
  • What does unemployment cost: What should an unemployed artist receive per hour?

These points, according to art world representatives, are moot, because the Danish and Nordic labour market model dictates clear-cut and tough rules of membership in the various artistic unions, which could easily be applied to a new programme of support for artists.

Chapter published: 16-07-2018

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