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Changes in the unemployment insurance rules have been feared to harm artist groups with short-term employment contracts, although the impact on the cultural sector is not yet clear.

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Sweden/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.9 Employment policies for the cultural sector

Conditions of income and employment among artists and cultural workers have been the object of many government surveys and initiatives for several decades. Since 2005, the Arts Grants Committee is responsible for monitoring economic and social conditions of artists and publishes annual statistical reports. In 2011, the Arts Grants Committee published a report concerning the employment situation and sources of income of Swedish artists. According to this study, artists spend 73 percent of their time on direct artistic work or administration of such, while 61 percent of their income derived from this. Of the artists who said they have been employed in their artistic profession during the previous year, 35 percent were permanent full time employees and 15 percent of permanent part-time employees. 20 percent were temporary employees, and about 35 percent of those employed had so called project employment. In the Swedish labour market in general, 85 percent of all employees have permanent employment. The survey also indicates that artist labour is more mobile. One third of the artists said they had at least six employers or principals for their artistic work during a year.

Historically support systems for the unemployed have often been relatively favourable to artistic professions, enabling independent professionals to mix short periods of employment and unemployment. The system has been criticised as enabling theatres to force independent performers to rehearse on unemployment aid. Programmes to help people into employment have also been used to finance e.g. trainee positions in the culture sector to a relatively high extent. Several initiatives to ”move resources from the unemployment budgets to the cultural sector have been taken. An example of this combined budgeting is the "theatre pool", (Teateralliansen) financed by the government, to provide salaried training and rehearsal facilities for actors. Since 2008, similar pools are in operation for dancers as well as for musicians.

In the last few years, the government has made several major changes in its labour market policy. The basis of the government's policy is to strengthen the so called ”work first principle“, making the fight against unemployment a top priority and redirecting the unemployed to employment in new lines of work. As for cultural work, changes in the unemployment insurance rules have been criticised as harmful to artists and other cultural professionals (e.g. musicians and actors) typically engaged on short-term employment contracts, making them repeatedly unemployed.

Chapter published: 16-05-2017

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