The most anticipated premiere in the cultural sector is not a movie, a novel or a record. Nor will it be seen on the tables or played on a console: it comes out of the Council of Ministers. The intention, yes, is that it precisely serves to guarantee and reinforce the unstable present and the uncertain future of those who create art.

Because the royal decree that the Government has approved this Tuesday includes two key measures for culture: an unprecedented unemployment benefit adapted to the precariousness of the sector, for the first time in the democratic history of Spain; and the compatibility between the collection of the retirement pension and any artistic activity that generates economic returns, as EL PAÍS was able to confirm with two sources that participated in the negotiation.

The Executive intends to recognize in this way, at the work level, the complex reality that artistic professionals experience and, often, suffer: there are weeks of a lot of work, where the mobile phone does not stop ringing and the portfolio is fed; but practically anyone also faces months of inactivity, silence and zero income. And that, with luck. Because in many cases the days of employment in a year are counted by a handful. In a word, intermittence, something that French legislation, for example, has included for years. And that, now, the Spanish royal decree also wants to protect.

Hence, the requirements to access the unemployment benefit are lowered: compared to the 360 ​​days of contributions in the last six years that are usually required, artists and technicians will need around half, a threshold close to the proposal that the representatives from the cultural sector raised the Ministry of Labor and Social Economy, led by Vice President Yolanda Díaz, during the negotiations. Specifically, in addition to the CC OO and UGT unions, the Union of Actors and Actresses, ConArte (confederation of performers-artists), the Union of Musicians and Alma, the scriptwriters union, sat at the table.

The exact duration of the benefit is revealed this Tuesday: in the latest drafts, it was set at 120 days. And its amount has also been the subject of lengthy negotiations and will only be known definitively at the press conference in which the Government announces it. There it will also be known if it finally enters into this royal decree or we will have to wait a little longer for another measure to be finalized, in this case, the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations: a special quota for self-employed workers in the cultural sector with very low income, below 3,000 euros.

The official numbers ―from the 2022 Cultural Statistics Yearbook of the Ministry of Culture and Sports― reinforce the need for the new measures. The cultural sector employed, in 2021, 690,800 people, 3.5% of the labor market. 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.

In addition, the royal decree seeks to finish off another work pending for years: since 2019, retired artists can receive the pension and, at the same time, the copyright. From now on they will also be allowed to receive income from artistic activities. In other words, basically, keep creating, just like the name of the platform that was born to promote this claim. Its members denounced cases of writers who suffered fines or saw their pension suspended due to the income generated by their works.

A good part of the artistic workers had been demanding all these steps forward for a long time. At least since Unesco recommended in 1980 to its Member States that they develop appropriate regulatory frameworks for the sector. And even more since an ad hoc subcommittee agreed in June 2018 in Congress on a 75-point report for the preparation of the so-called Artist Statute.

Some, little by little, became law over the years, such as a new “temporary artistic employment contract.” Many of the main changes, however, have come after time, pauses, delays and a pandemic that left the sector as one of the most affected. So much so that some remember that, if the measures approved now had been in place then, they would have been the refuge that the cultural workers did not have before the hurricane that raged at them.

Popular music and performing arts, for example, lost a third of their performances and more than half of their audience between 2019 and 2021, according to the latest Survey of Cultural Habits and Practices from the Ministry of Culture and Sports. And UNESCO warned in February of last year in a report that the situation of many artists had “gone from precarious to unsustainable” due to the pandemic, with losses for the sector of between 20% and 40% of income in 2020 alone. For those who have closed or left it, it is probably too late. At least those who were able to weather the storm will have an umbrella from now on.

The Government itself is also somewhat late in its own promises. In July 2021, he created an inter-ministerial commission to promote the project. And in December of the same year, Díaz and the Minister of Culture and Sports, Miquel Iceta, promised to develop the entire Artist Statute throughout 2022. They were wrong, in this case, in a few weeks. Although, in reality, there are still more measures to be taken before it can be affirmed that all those 75 points in the 2018 report are law. Tax matters, for example, related to personal income tax withholdings. The ultimate goal is a fairer working condition for artists. To continue creating, after all, you also need to continue eating.

Previous articleWhat are the benefits of having a sports car?
Next article22 cool and inexpensive things to do with friends