Culture has long gotten used to being a secondary character in Spanish politics. Almost always absent in electoral debates, barely mentioned in the party programs or in the declarations of the different governments. Today Tuesday, however, the employees of the sector finally became “protagonists” of the press conference after the Council of Ministers, in the words of the vice president and Minister of Labor and Social Economy, Yolanda Díaz. “It’s a very special day. We are feminists, ecologists, but today we are also the Government of the cultural workers, ”she added.
The reason came just afterwards, when Díaz outlined the three measures claimed for years by the arts and finally approved today by the Executive through a royal decree, as announced by EL PAÍS: an unemployment benefit adapted to the intermittency of cultural employment; the compatibility of the retirement pension with income from artistic and other related activities, and a special quota for self-employed workers in these areas of work with income below 3,000 euros.
“There are very few countries that have this protection and Spain is taking a step forward,” said Díaz. He thanked the Ministers of Culture and Sports, Miquel Iceta, and of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations, José Luis Escrivá, integral parts of the project; to the ad hoc subcommittee that promoted it in Congress; and, above all, to the cultural workers, both for their patience and insistence —”they have been mobilizing for years and demanding what we approve today”— and for their collaboration in a “very complex negotiation, since labor relations are not the same for the scenic, musical or plastic arts”. Below, we summarize the keys to the measures that will become a reality as of their publication in the BOE, presumably tomorrow, Wednesday.
A strike adapted to intermittence. Culture is often associated with the stars and their envied life, as Díaz recalled, but most of the sector works in the shadows and with enormous difficulties. Some days or weeks the opportunities rain, but the months of silence, doubts and zero income always arrive. That is why the Government creates a specific unemployment benefit adapted to the intermittence of cultural work. To access it, it will be necessary to meet one of these two requirements: 60 days of contributions in the last 18 months; or 180 in the last six years, compared to the 360 that are normally required. The subsidy will last 120 days.
The amount will reach 100% of the IPREM (Multiple Effects Public Income Indicator, the index usually used for the granting of aid) for contributions that exceed 61 euros. Below, 80% will be received. Díaz stressed that the measure affects artists in the broadest sense, “widening it to all technicians in the sector.” And he clarified, just in case, that whoever can and prefers to take advantage of the general unemployment subsidy will “of course” be free to do so. “The provision is compatible with the perception of intellectual property and image rights,” also reports a statement issued by the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
Continue creating after retirement. “The compatibility of 100% of the retirement pension with artistic activity is extended,” says the Culture statement. The beneficiaries of a non-contributory pension will also be able to take advantage of the measure, as long as, yes, the income from their creative activity does not exceed the minimum interprofessional salary (1,000 euros per month, currently), as Díaz qualified. This culminates a long struggle of the artists, who came to denounce through the Seguir Creando platform that they suffered fines and pension withdrawals for the income generated by their works.
Since 2019, royalties can already be received at the same time as the pension. But, now, it will also apply to artistic and “related” activities (for example, a conference associated with the presentation of a book, and not only to the property rights of the work). In addition, the compatibility extends beyond the artists, interpreters or performers of scenic, audiovisual or musical arts, also reaching professionals who carry out necessary technical or auxiliary activities”, writes Culture. “The government wants people of culture to continue contributing to their country despite being retired,” Díaz added.
A new quota for specific self-employed. “For low-income self-employed artists (equal to or less than 3,000 euros per year), a reduced contribution is incorporated: in 2023 a contribution base of 526.14 euros is set for them, which represents a monthly fee of 161 euros. The database will be updated in subsequent years. In addition, in response to the irregularity of many of the activities of this group, the possibility is opened at the request of the interested party that the payment term of the quotas be quarterly, instead of monthly, ”the statement details.
Two commissions. Díaz also announced the creation of two working groups, made up of workers from the competent ministries and union representatives and the cultural sector. One will study and promote the recognition of certain professional diseases derived from artistic activities. The other will be dedicated to “measures to recognize the intermittency in the workplace and the Social Security of artists and self-employed workers of culture,” according to Culture.
The Artist’s Statute, closer to its completion. Four and a half years have passed since, in the summer of 2018, all the parties agreed on a 75-point report for the elaboration of the so-called Artist Statute. The passage of time and the delays in its approval left culture exposed to the elements during the pandemic, which hit the sector with forced closures and losses of up to half of its audience in various areas. By now, most of the measures are already law and the three announced today represent another giant step forward. Although there are still open fronts, such as specific withholdings of personal income tax.
An unstable and intermittent sector. The cultural professions employed, in 2021, 690,800 people, 3.5% of the labor market, according to data from the Ministry of Culture and Sports. But only 66.6% were salaried, compared to the general average of 84.1%. And only one in two has a permanent contract, again below the national average (63%). The business universe shows the same instability: the expression “cultural industry” actually refers to a sector where 67.1% of the 128,741 registered companies do not have any employees (that is, they are self-employed alone) and the 26.8% added between one and five.