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In 2018 a new Flemish structure to support entrepreneurship in the cultural sector will be formed.

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Belgium/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.9 Employment policies for the cultural sector

At the federal level, the "Maribel" social fund has been created to sustain job creation in the non-profit sector (health care, well-being & culture). On 1 July 2003, the social statute for artists (see chapter 5.1.4) brought deductions in costs for employers. On 1 July 2004, the "small expense compensation system" came into effect.  Under this scheme, artists can receive a fixed expense reimbursement that is exempt from social security contributions. Since 1 January 2007, the "small expense compensation system" is tax free. These exemptions are linked to the respect for certain conditions.

Flemish Community

In the very broad sense of the word, the number of persons employed in the cultural sector was almost 136 000 in 2007 in the Flemish Region. In Brussels there are more than 9 000 employees. There has been an increase in these numbers in the Flemish region since the last measurement point in late 2006. In Brussels, following a strong expansion in 2006, numbers indicate a sharp decline in employment in the cultural sector.

Approximately 75% of employment can be ascribed to the private sector. For many years, the cultural sector has made intensive use of special forms of employment organised by the government to combat unemployment.

A fund for socio-economic security was set up in the music, performing arts and life entertainment sector in 2001 ("Sociaal Fonds voor de Podiumkunsten"). A collective labour agreement was concluded with regard to high-risk groups. The general social security contribution of 0.1%, collected from the total payroll, flows back to sector specific initiatives in the framework of employment and education, such as initiatives for the transition of the careers of dancers and the employability of freelance actors and musicians. This fund is also responsible for the execution of a covenant between the social partners (employers' federations and unions) and the Flemish government concerning lifelong learning, development of diversity, health and safety.

"Kunstenloket" was created in 2004, in order to inform and advise on legal and administrative aspects of artistic activity; to follow up the implementation of the new social status of the artist initiatives; to collect and analyse data on employment; and to organise training. Kunstenloket was an active partner in the "Practics" mobility pilot project of the European Parliament (2008-2011). As of 2018, Kunstenloket will merge with “Cultuurloket” to form a new structure to support entrepreneurship in the cultural sector.

French-speaking Community of Belgium

Since 1974, cultural employment has been developed and subsidised mainly in the sectors of cultural centres, youth, continuing education, libraries and theatre and in the major cultural institutions.

The various anti-unemployment plans implemented under global employment policies have enabled a genuine investment towards employment in the various cultural sectors.

This has been very helpful to the development of cultural sector employment. New forms of cooperation between cultural policies (Community-based) and employment policies (federal and regional) are being sought in order to expand cultural employment in a more structural manner.

Appropriate cultural policies also develop training and qualification for cultural leaders.

A cultural employment register has been set up, which records all the cultural jobs in certain sectors: centres of expression and creativity, cultural centres, youth centres, youth organisations, continuing education associations and libraries. Some major sectors such as performing arts and artistic creation in general, and museums, are not included.

This register shows the number of workers and jobs in the socio-cultural milieu, together with the functional profiles, qualifications and status of the people concerned.

In 2012, the register held details of almost 10,000 workers.

The gender breakdown is 1/3 men to 2/3 women. The age structure is relatively balanced, with slightly more people in the 25-35 age bracket. Two thirds of the jobs are subsidised by cultural policies.

The ‘non-merchant agreements’ signed between the federal, Community and regional bodies are designed to enhance the funding of employment in the social, health, sporting, cultural and audio-visual sectors, one reason being to allow for compliance with the scale conditions laid down by the Joint Committees (social partners). The extra credits released by these agreements have enabled a really significant enhancement of the employment of permanent staff subsidised in the youth sector, continuing education, cultural centres, audio-visual production workshops and community TV.

By way of an example, in 2014, a social fund in the French-speaking Community of Belgium, called the Maribel social fund, is supporting cultural centres (59 FTE[1]), libraries, toy libraries and media libraries (20.5 FTE), sporting organisations (44.5 FTE), non-commercial TV and radio (27 FTE), adult continuing education organisations (166.55 FTE), youth bodies (110.75 FTE), socio-professional integration associations (16 FTE), museums and non-commercial tourism organisations (36 FTE), Centres of Expression and Creativity (6.25 FTE), development education cooperation associations (15 FTE) and organisations managing the bodies listed above (6.25 FTE).

Nevertheless, these advances do not mean we can overlook the measures taken in 2012 at federal level (ONEm) to restrict the status of artists, a move which can mean, for example, that an artist who has not accrued a large enough number of performances may lose social, legal and economic benefits. This all tends to make the artistic professions more and more insecure. The decisions taken at federal level with regard to the status of artists (from the social and fiscal points of view) have major repercussions on the development of culture. A platform for consultation between the various levels of power (Federal and French-speaking Community of Belgium) has been created in a bid to find some lasting solutions for artists.

German-speaking Community

Subsidies for the financing of staff of cultural organisations, museums and creative studios as well as organisations of youth and adult education are regulated by decree or by agreement.

Since the Walloon Region transferred exercise of the responsibilities in the area of employment to the German-speaking Community in 2000, the regulation of job-creation measures by the government and institution of a Labour Office for the German-speaking Community have been the most important instruments of employment policy.

Job-creation measures are aimed at enabling the long-term unemployed and recipients of welfare to gain regular employment. By means of grants for the salary costs of associations and authorities that take on additional staff in the context of projects of global community interest, the German-speaking Community provides a targeted contribution towards increasing the volume of employment.

[1] Full-Time Equivalent.

Chapter published: 16-01-2018

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