Support for freelance creative persons and creative unions is regulated by the Creative Persons and Artistic Associations Act, which entered into force in January 2005. The purpose of this Act is to support cultural creativity and the professional preservation and development of fine arts, and to improve and create the conditions necessary for the creative work of persons through creative associations.
According to the Act, a freelance creative person is an author or performer, whose main source of livelihood is professional creative work in the fields of architecture, audiovisual, design, performing arts, sound, literature, visual arts, or shorthand, not under employment or similar obligations. An artistic association is a non-profit association that is recognised pursuant to the procedure provided for in this Act, the purpose of which is to promote one artistic field and support the creative activities of creative persons who are members of the artistic association.
The artistic associations unite and represent persons working in one creative field: architecture, audiovisual arts, design, performing arts, sound arts, literature, visual arts or scenography. More than 40% of the members of an artistic association may not belong to another creative association recognised in the same creative field. An artistic association must have at least 50 persons who have been active in the relevant creative field for at least the last three years and whose works have been published or made available to the public.
The statutory purpose and profession of an artistic association, which it unites and represents, cannot coincide with another statutory aim and profession recognised in the same creative profession. The artistic association may not impose any restrictions on its membership or activities that are of a regional, ethnic, gender, racial or other nature, other than those arising out of their trade or profession.
A freelance creative person who is a member of one of the recognised artistic association and fulfills the conditions laid down in the Creative Persons and Creatives Associations Act, is entitled to receive support for six months through the artistic association. The amount of this support is the national minimum wage established by the Government of the Republic and the recipient is also guaranteed health insurance.
To be eligible for funding, a freelance creative person must apply to their creative union. In case the creative person belongs to several artistic association and has not applied for support for only one association, the application must be submitted to all creative unions of which he or she is a member.
A freelance creative person who does not belong to a recognised artistic association but who meets the conditions specified in Creative Persons and Artistic Associations Act, is eligible to apply for creative support to the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture forwards the application of the creative person to the association representing the respective field, which evaluates the compliance of the creative person with the requirements of the Creative Persons and Creative Associations Act and decides on granting the support.
The Ministry of Culture and the Confederation of Estonian Employees’ Unions (TALO) have traditionally negotiated in autumn during the past 15 years to raise salaries for cultural workers in the public sector. With some exceptions, an agreement is usually signed by the Minister and the TALO. The state sector cultural workers minimum monthly wage (with higher education) started in 2014 from level EUR 700 (average salary in Estonia was EUR 1 005 monthly) and reached EUR 1 300 in 2019 (average in Estonia EUR 1 407 monthly).
In December 2019, the Minister of Culture and the Chairman of the Management Board of TALO signed the 2020 salary agreement for cultural workers. The agreement calls for increasing the wage fund for people working at Ministry of Culture institutions by 2,5%. The distribution of the wage fund depends on the decisions of the heads of cultural institutions. The wage agreement applies to all cultural workers receiving a salary from the Ministry of Culture budget, but is also recommended for all cultural institutions regardless of their administrative jurisdiction or form of ownership. In 2020, the minimum salary for cultural workers, receiving a salary from the Ministry of Culture budget, is EUR 1 300. The national minimum salary also forms the basis for determining the artists’ and writers’ wage.
According to the agreement based on the General Principles of Cultural Policy up to 2020 (see chapter 1.1), the minimum wage of cultural workers should at least equal the projected average gross earnings. The agreed upon wage agreement covers those receiving a salary from state institutions, public institutions, foundations and county libraries. The cultural workers that are covered include those with higher educations, higher vocational qualifications or specific specialised knowledge equivalent to the higher education requirement, of whom there are almost 4 000. The same amount of additional funds will be added to the wage fund for coaches, the total amount for 2020 is EUR 2,3 million.