The legislator has acknowledged the special status of freelance artists in comparison with other workers. They have the right to retirement and disability insurance and to health insurance. Contributions are paid from the state budget (see also chapter 2.9). The Croatian Freelance Artists Association (HZSU) encourages and promotes creative work and public activity in culture and the arts, and it represents freelance artists’ common interests, so as to help them achieve their goals and to protect their rights. A freelance artist becomes a member of the Association on the basis of his or her creative work and so can apply to have his or her contributions paid from the National Budget, as long as he or she meets the criteria laid down in the Regulations about the procedures and conditions for the recognition of the rights of artists to have their retirement, disability and medical insurance paid out of the national budget of the Republic of Croatia. Applications by the artists are considered by the Expert Commission, and decisions are subsequently confirmed by the Minister of Culture. When the Expert Commission has made a favourable decision, the Croatian Association of Freelance Artists registers the freelance artist with the Croatian Institute for Retirement Insurance and the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance according to an artist’s place of residence. There are 30 arts associations which appoint their members to the expert commissions (list available at: http://hr.hzsu.hr/Struktura-WEB-a/Glavna-navigacija/Umjetnicke-udruge).
With the changes in the by-laws on the rules and conditions for granting the right to independent artists to receive retirement and health insurance from the state budget in 2004, a more efficient system was put in place. If an independent artist earns, during a 3-year period, less than the average of a fully employed academic artist’s salary, he / she is entitled to receive health and social security benefits paid from the state budget. Those who earn more than this amount will no longer be entitled to additional state support.
In the pre-recession period, the number of independent artists entitled to support from the state budget was on the rise; according to available data from the Ministry (MK, 2007: 15), in the period 2003-2007, it increased from 1°263 to 1°341. However, it can be said that the upward trend has diminished during the crisis period; according to online data from the Croatian Freelance Artists’ Association (HZSU) in June 2010, there were 1 316 freelance artists entitled to the support registered, while in November 2012 the number lowered to 1 283 artists (the date of this unofficial online data was not listed), while in October 2013 there were 1 303 freelance artists listed on the HZSU website, in October 2014 this number dropped to 1 300, while in May 2016 it amounted to 1 319.
A status of independent artist entitled to the support from the budget remains one of the burning issues in Croatia where an overall reform of the system is needed especially because the existing system is not harmonised with the relevant Croatian legislation (especially labour and pension laws as well as with strengthened rules on fiscal and financial discipline). This has continued to be a hot issue of discussion and the changes in the legislation were announced several times but are still expected.