Extending social security to workers in the cultural and creative sector

Cultural and creative sectors

Module content

Workers in cultural and creative sector (CCS) often lack effective access to social protection. The type of contractual arrangements and the organization of work prevalent in the sector may impact their coverage and the adequacy of the benefits they receive. The extent of coverage of workers in the CCS varies between countries but also between the different categories of workers within this sector. For the purpose of this module, CSS includes authors, writers and journalists; visual artists; musicians, singers and composers; dancers and choreographers; film, stage and related directors and producers, actors, announcers on radio, television; technicians from broadcasting and audio-visual and telecommunications engineering. The COVID-19 has painfully highlighted, and in many cases exacerbated, already existing inequalities and gaps in social protection systems. Workers in the CCS sector are among the hardest hit by the crisis, especially those that were already previously vulnerable due to their insecure employment status.

This module highlights the specific challenges of extending social security to workers in the cultural and creative sector and explores some policy options, based on international experience and guided by ILO social security standards. 


Key questions

  •  What are the specific challenges with regard to including CCS workers under social security systems?
  •  How can CSS workers be included under social security legislation?
  •  What else needs to be considered when aiming at including CSS workers under social security legislation?

Main barriers

  •  Legal exclusion: When social security legislation is limited to certain categories of employees, some CCS workers, including independent contractors, may be excluded. Similar exclusions may exist for employees who work part-time or on a short-term or temporary basis. The situation may be exacerbated by the fact that in some countries, particularly developing countries, a relatively high proportion of CCS workers may work without a (formal and/or written) contract. In addition to their labour mobility, work undertaken in other countries might also not be accounted for, especially where bilateral or multilateral agreements treating the portability of social protection rights and benefits do not exist.
  •  Diversity and fluidity of employment relationships: Many CCS occupations combine short-term employment, salaried, self-employed, and other working arrangements, interrupted by periods of study, rehearsing, practicing, etc. Such interrupted employment histories can result in sporadic social security contributions, which in turn result in low or insufficient contribution density and in turn inadequate protection.
  •  Irregular and diverse types of remuneration: Some workers in CCS occupations may earn income from several sources and remuneration may not be settled on a regular basis. These factors can affect their contributory capacity as well as the periodicity of contribution payments, which in turn will impact the extent of social protection, both in terms of access and levels of protection. For self-employed CCS workers, contributing to a social security scheme may not be affordable – as they are responsible for both the employer’s and employee’s share of contributions (unless the employer’s part is subsidized by the government).
  •  Hidden working time in creative occupations: Some workers in the CCS invest significant time in undertaking research for their projects, rehearsing or working on their next shows or performances. This is commonly referred to as “hidden working time”; employment contracts often do not assimilate these periods as “work” and they are consequently not remunerated for them. Where this is the case, they are usually not accounted for under social insurance schemes.
  •  Uneven union representation: Trade unions may face challenges in organizing CCS workers, especially considering their employment status, and in ensuring the improvement of their working conditions, through collective action. Where CCS workers are not represented by trade unions, the ability of these workers to engage in social dialogue and collective negotiations as a means to improve their social protection will be hampered.

Possible solutions

Extending legal coverage
  •  Ensuring that CCS workers in all types of employment are covered under social security law.
  •  Clarifying the nature of the employment relationship of CCS workers and prevent the misclassification of employment, especially relating to disguised self-employment in line with international standards.
Adapting systems to the peculiar situation of CCS workers
  •  Adapting eligibility criteria and qualifying conditions to the particular situation of CCS workers, including their income and employment patterns. This can be done among others by increasing the flexibility of the minimum thresholds on income required for eligibility.
  •  Adapting the level, frequency, calculation and collection of contributions to the situation of CCS workers (e.g. a flexible contribution collection schedule (annual rather than monthly income), lump sum or quarterly contributions as well as the option of deferring contributions during interruptions in employment).
Ensuring adequate financing
  •  Considering diverse and innovative solutions in line with the principle of solidarity, such as in France or Germany, where contributions from cultural and art users (radio broadcasters, art galleries, etc.) are obtained.
  •  Considering additional financing sources and innovative approaches, such as through earmarked taxes on art users or collecting contributions from emerging online platforms for music or movies.
  •   Considering subsidizing (part of) the contributions for those with insufficient contributory capacities, such as those with low earnings, as to guarantee at least a basic level of protection.
Simplifying administrative and financing arrangements by harnessing technology
  •  Simplifying administrative processes and promoting social security affiliation, including through digital technology.
  •  Promoting integrated delivery mechanisms, such as “single window services” or “one-stop-shops” are being established to facilitate access to a complete range of benefits and services at reduced cost.
Improving coordination and portability
  •  Ensuring access to social protection for those with high labour mobility. For instance, in France, where specific eligibility conditions to unemployment allowance exist for CCS workers, the system allows combining these specific benefits with general benefits from other jobs.
  •  Taking into account that CCS workers are often required to travel between countries, promoting coordination mechanisms between States, e.g. through the conclusion of bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Raising awareness and sharing information
  •  Raising awareness among CCS workers, including through their representative organizations, on the importance of social protection, available schemes and benefits and related procedures.
Taking a holistic approach
  •  Linking social protection policies with other policy areas: for example, offer a package of employment services, including training, job offers, and unemployment benefits, as well as childcare services and old age protection through a one-stop shop approach.
Fostering social dialogue
  •  Fostering and supporting organization and voice of CCS workers, through meaningful involvement of CCS trade unions and professional organizations as well employers’ organizations (producers, broadcasters, etc.) in discussion and reforms to ensure the specific needs of this sector are reflected in the policy design and implementation.

Key messages

  •  The extension of legal coverage to CCS workers needs to be complemented by additional measures to ensure effective coverage of CSS workers, to adapt the rules concerning eligibility and contribution payments, to facilitate registration and administration, to devise diverse financing solutions, and to inform CCS workers about existing schemes and how to access them.
  •  It is essential to assess the special needs and gaps of CSS workers and to adapt the schemes to their specificities.
  •  Ensuring coordination between countries, between schemes and between other economic, social and financial benefits and services is essential.