The health crisis destroyed about 85,000 cultural jobs

After a year and a half of pandemic, and with the first signs of economic recovery, the balance of damage already has a figure: about 85,000 jobs have been destroyed in the cultural industries. It is 12% less than the record of 726,600 employees that was marked in the first quarter of 2019, just when COVID-19 swept the sector. Until now, the labor dimension of the coronavirus was unknown. Thanks to the data for the second quarter of 2021 on cultural employment from the Active Population Survey (EPA), prepared by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), it is possible to understand the consequences that confinement and capacity limitation has had on the sector that closed its businesses before and that took the longest to reopen, due to health protocols.

Concert halls have entered the ICU

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The pandemic immediately pushed cultural employment off the cliff. The bottom of the ordeal was touched in the third quarter of 2019, with just over 640,000 employees. Never before has cultural employment lost so many jobs in such a short period of time. In one year, jobs were destroyed more abruptly than in any of the four years of the last financial crisis, which between 2009 and 2012 took away 120,700 jobs. The trend of that labor debacle was getting worse over the years. The data published now offers a different dynamic because the bottom of the worst records has taken less time to arrive and there is already a rebound to the upside. In fact, in 2012 only 569,200 jobs were added and, if the end of the capacity limitations is noticed in the last three months, it is likely that 2021 will close close to 695,000 jobs.

For now, the EPA says that cultural employment in the first half of 2021 has remained at 686,500 jobs. This figure represents an interannual increase of 3.3% compared to the same period in 2020. But it is a decrease of 5.5% compared to 2019. The new figures confirm a slow recovery trend. When comparing the growth of the first half of 2019 with that of 2021, the extraordinary rhythm of then and the slow pace of now is discovered: two years ago cultural employment grew at a speed of 4.3% and this year it does so at 1 , 6%. It is a slight recovery, but for the first time the course of the crisis changes.

From the Association for the Development of Intellectual Property (ADEPI) they explain to this newspaper that “there has been an important sinkhole in the sector because many permanent jobs have been lost that have not been restored, so stability has been lost” . Despite this, they indicate that the audiovisual sector is the one that is better overcoming the economic crisis. At the other extreme are live arts (concerts and theater) and movie theaters, “they are companies that are very damaged by capacity,” says ADEPI. The data for the first half of the year are conditioned by the limitations of the capacity, it is foreseeable that the second half will reveal a greater growth with the purpose of these sanitary measures.

Precariousness through the clouds

Among the good news, there is a fact that is not so promising: non-salaried workers are growing (self-employment). There are about 25,000 more people than in 2019, an increase of 10%. In other words, the way out of the crisis points to a greater precariousness of cultural employment. In fact, at the moment, the national average of non-salaried workers is 16% and in culture 34%, more than double. In the last year and a half, salaried employees are 15% less than in March 2019. Cultural workers are useless with an academic training much higher than the Spanish average (higher education reaches 71.9% and in the total of national employment is 45.5%).

Another symptom of the precariousness of the sector after the health crisis: at the end of 2019 the increase in permanent contracts was spectacular (it exceeded the barrier of 380,000, something never seen before), but there is no trace of that inertia. Throughout 2020, permanent contracts were extinguished in culture, which registered 340,000 jobs. Despite the slight comeback (360,000 permanent contracts currently), at the moment only half of cultural workers have one of those contracts. The national average of employment with a permanent contract is 63.4% and in culture it is 52%.

Precariousness has been primed with temporary workers, who have been the most affected in this year and a half: 40% of these employees have disappeared. We have already seen that they have not been able to become salaried or permanent employees. This is the data that shows the extreme weakness of the cultural industries sector and how much it is in need of a regulation that reduces the damage of its congenital intermittency. Despite these bad records, temporary workers will continue to be in a vulnerable situation for a longer time because they are the only ones who maintain the same data as in the worst pandemic scenario.

No financial balances

The cultural sector remains in the hands of men. 59.5% of employment is male and 40.5% is female. National averages, in which female employment is 46%, highlight the inequality of cultural industries. If the data obtained in the first half of 2021 are compared with those of the first half of 2019, in their case a year-on-year decrease of 7.2% is observed, from 442,000 to 410,200 workers (in the worst moment of the crisis exceeded a 14% drop). Female employment was cut by 2.9% and from 284,600 employed women it has gone to 276,300 (at the worst it was 7% less).

The age group most affected in this year and a half of crisis is 25 to 34 years old. 15.7% of this age group have lost their jobs. It is followed by the one between 35 and 44 years old, with 12.4% fewer workers. And the growth in employment 55 years and older is striking: 21.4% more employees.

So far the administrations have not made estimates of the losses that have affected the sector. The only economic data available is that provided by ADEPI at the beginning of the health crisis, when it valued the losses at nearly 3,000 million euros for each month that creative and commercial activity remained paralyzed. In 2019, culture contributed to GDP a sum close to 40,000 million euros, 3.2% of the national total.


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