The socio-economic position of artists — and by proxy, of cultural professionals in similar working conditions — has been a prominent subject of debate in the cultural field in Flanders and Brussels over the past years (and will probably continue to be so in the coming years, as the COVID-19 crisis reinvigorated the debate). Extensive research — conducted with government support — has given insight into the working conditions of artists in Flanders and Brussels. Their situation is often one of multiple job holding, a combination of different social security schemes, informal and short-term labour agreements, and wages that are lower than the average — conditions that are still very different from those of the majority of working people in Belgium.
The role of organisations and governments in creating these conditions is often called into question. Criticism towards the government is recurrently directed at the budget for project funding for artists or the regulations for artists in the social security framework. With regard to cultural organisations, the question of applying fair practices is raised — which include fair payment, decent working time, transparency, sustainable practices etc. The debate on fair practices intersects with other issues at stake, as some voices point out that the precarious nature of the described working conditions is deepened by (e.g.) gender inequality (see 2.5.5) and structural racism (see 2.5.1; this has led to criticism of silencing and (implicit) censorship of non-white artistic voices). In the wake of these debates, a number of charters, model agreements, and initiatives to raise awareness of fair practices were launched from within the cultural sector itself. Recent examples include Juist is Juist, the Fair Arts Almanac, or Engagement.
This takes place within a context of a cultural policy that has rather provided outlines than specific rules on how to implement fair practices. Since its reform in 2013, the Arts Decree mentions the application of collective labour agreements (art. 51; see 4.1.5) and “attention to a correct remuneration for artists” (art. 23 and 28) as prerequisites for receiving funding. It does not, however, provide a detailed definition of “correct remuneration”. Former minister of Culture Sven Gatz (2014-2019) put “strengthening the socio-economic position of artists” as a priority in his arts policy and would see to it that funded organisations sufficiently support artists. At the same time, he stated that correct remuneration of artists is a nuanced story and an ambition (“betrachting”) for organisations.
Players in the cultural field are seen by policy makers as active partners in achieving fair practices. In preparing his Action Plan against harassment and abuse in the cultural field and media (see 2.5.5.), Gatz organised round-table discussions with associations, intermediary organisations, and labour unions from the cultural field. Current minister Jan Jambon (2019-2024) mentions cooperation with cultural players and initiatives in his Strategic Vision Statement on the Arts. In his goal of ameliorating the socio-economic position of artists, for example, he wishes to investigate if guidelines on fair practices provided by Juist is Juist could be adapted for the criteria for funding. Jambon’s vision hints at a more specified set of rules for implementing fair practices than was previously the case. Another example of this is the plan of devising a matrix for remunerating visual artists.
Jambon also announced to enhance support schemes for artists (in contrast to the cuts at the beginning of his term, see 7.1.3). Budgets for project funding and grants in the arts have fluctuated from year to year — with lower budgets causing protest among arts professionals. The minister now wishes to reserve a specific share of the government expenditure on the arts for project funding and grants. The largest part of the arts budget goes to multi-year funding for organisations. Among these, the seven major art institutions (‘kunstinstellingen’) receive a substantial part – which has steadily increased over the years, compared to the budget for other organisations (see 1.3.3). Jambon plans to provide some of the latter the opportunity to become a ‘core institution’ (‘kerninstelling’), a new category of funding, similar to the existing major art institutions (see also 2.9). This has led to concern among arts professionals that (if the overall budget for the arts will not rise) the available funding for other organisations will shrink considerably. The future core institutions will also sign a management agreement with the Flemish government. This system is already in place for the major art institutions and implies that these organisations can receive official assignments from the government. This means a larger part of the publicly funded arts field (which will also represent a substantial part of the overall budget for the arts) will come into a more direct relationship with their funding government.
The regulations for artists in the social security framework (the ‘kunstenaarsstatuut’, see 4.1.3) are more than once referred to in vision statements by ministers of Culture as being important. These regulations, however, are Federal policy matters. If a Flemish minister of Culture wishes to impact these regulations, this would require — as Jambon proposed in his policy memorandum — negotiation with the Federal Government (see also 1.2.6).
 For an overview, see Hesters, Delphine. 2019. D.I.T. (Do It Together). The position of the artist in today’s art world. Kunstenpocket 3. Brussel: Kunstenpunt; Kunstenpunt, ed. 2019. Landschapstekening Kunsten: Ontwikkelingsperspectieven voor de kunsten anno 2019. Brussel: Kunstenpunt, 149-165.
 Notably Siongers, Jessy, Astrid Van Steen, and John Lievens. 2016. Loont passie? Een onderzoek naar de sociaaleconomische positie van professionele kunstenaars in Vlaanderen. Ghent University; Siongers, Jessy, Mart Willekens, Lucas Pissens, and John Lievens. 2018. Wie heeft het gemaakt? Een onderzoek naar de sociaaleconomische positie van architecten en designers in Vlaanderen. Ghent University.
 Gatz, Sven. 2015. ‘Strategische Visienota Kunsten. Naar een dynamisch, divers en slagkrachtig kunstenlandschap in Vlaanderen’, 33-35.
 Gatz, Sven. 2018. ‘Actieplan Grensoverschrijdend gedrag in de cultuur en audiovisuele sector’. Departement Cultuur, Jeugd en Media van de Vlaamse overheid, 3-4.
 E.g. Anciaux, Bert. 2004. ‘Beleidsnota Cultuur 2004-2009’, 9; Gatz, Sven. 2014. ‘Beleidsnota 2014-2019. Cultuur’, 21; —. 2015. ‘Strategische Visienota Kunsten. Naar een dynamisch, divers en slagkrachtig kunstenlandschap in Vlaanderen’, 34.