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Challenges and opportunities for decent work in the culture and media sectors

Working paper #324

December 4, 20194 December 2019

Human resources / Artists / Cultural workers

International Labour Organization

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Based on a quantitative and qualitative survey of unions representing culture and media workers in 16 countries (including Canada), this report examines labour issues such as non-standard working arrangements, collective bargaining, and access to social benefits for workers in the culture and media sectors.

The research team estimates that there are 30 million culture and media workers globally, including musicians, actors, dancers, journalists, screenwriters, technicians and creators of audio-visual and live performances, and visual artists.

The researchers note that the “highly informal and unstable nature of cultural work” exists “in virtually every country”. Non-standard working arrangements, such as freelancing, self-employment, and part-time work, have proliferated in the culture and media sectors. Non-standard working arrangements can affect the ability to participate in collective bargaining and access to basic social protections.

Related to collective bargaining, the survey of unions found that 68% of responding unions represent self-employed workers.

Regarding basic social protections (e.g., sick leave, unemployment insurance, and pensions), the report notes that the situations of self-employed artists and non-standard workers vary by country. There is:

  • full coverage in Côte d’Ivoire, Japan, and New Zealand
  • mixed coverage in Canada, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal, Argentina, Indonesia, and Republic of Korea
  • no coverage in Malaysia, South Africa, and Democratic Republic of the Congo

In Canada, the report finds that social protection coverage is mostly union-based. ACTRA and Canadian Actors Equity Association are mentioned as unions that extend some social benefits to self-employed artists. The authors note that it is critical to address gaps in coverage by extending social benefits to all workers, regardless of employment status, to guard against the precariousness of work in the culture and media sectors.

The report identifies gender equity as an area “of great concern” in the culture and media sectors, noting that the pay gap and sexual harassment are major issues. The survey finds that unions in eight countries have employment equity initiatives: Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Senegal, and Argentina.

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