Italy/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.9 Employment policies for the cultural sector

Proactive policies directly or indirectly aimed at supporting the creation of new jobs in the cultural sector developed in Italy during the 1970s and the 1980s, as well as the positive results achieved in stimulating cultural supply and demand in the 1990s, had resulted in a strong boost to cultural employment in our country in the last decades of the past century. However, the lack of genuinely innovative cultural policy measures in recent times to stimulate employment in the cultural field – and, more in particular, the collapse in public cultural expenditure in the first decade of this century – may be responsible for the slowing down of this once very dynamic trend.

Such stagnation in cultural employment has been stated by a study on unpublished Istat data 2004-2006 (Bodo, Cabasino, Pintaldi, Spada, 2009), carried out by the Associazione per l'Economia della Cultura (AEC) in collaboration with Istat, and further confirmed by an updating of this study in 2010 (see "Economia della cultura" n.4/2011). The main aim of these studies was to identify more closely the volume and trends of cultural employment in Italy – and its variables – in the first decade of the 2000s, by applying the methodology worked out by the Eurostat Working Group on Cultural Statistics to the newly available (since 2004) 4 digit Istat data from our national Labour Force Survey.

In 2010, overall cultural employment in Italy – concerning, according to Eurostat definition, "the whole of the employed in a cultural occupation (ISCO), or in an economic unity of the cultural domain (NACE)" – amounted to 585 000 active persons: 2.5% of the total active employed population. However (see Figure 2) 137 000 units were employed both in what is defined by Eurostat as the cultural domain (heritage, the arts and cultural industries) and in cultural occupations (artistic, technical and operational). In fact, out of the 336 000 employed in the cultural domain, the other 199 000 were employed in the cultural domain with no cultural occupation, but rather with managerial and administrative roles, whereas 249 000 (nearly two thirds) of the 386 000 employed in cultural occupations have been working outside the cultural domain (designers in the fashion or car industry, film directors in advertising spots, etc.). These data provide further evidence of the multifaceted activities of the employed in the cultural sector, mostly engaged in jobs often far removed from the arts.

Figure 2:    Overall cultural employment: employed in cultural occupations + employed in the cultural domain, 2010

Source:     AEC elaborations on Istat data from the Labour Force Survey.

Surprisingly, the updated study (from which both figures are drawn), revealed that the overall amount of cultural employment was exactly the same – 585 000 – for 2006 and 2010. This overall stagnation in the trend of cultural employment over the quinquennium, however, is the result of quite substantial ups and downs (see Figure 3), with an increase of 10% in the number of working units between 2005 and 2008 (when the highest peak of 635 000 employed was reached), followed by a decrease of 8% between 2008 and 2010, as a self-evident consequence of the economic and financial crisis.

Figure 3 shows quite similar trends for cultural employment and for the total employed population in our country between 2005 and 2006, unlike what happened in the previous decades, when cultural employment was far more dynamic. The faster pace of cultural employment in comparison with general employment in the years characterised by Italy's – if modest – economic growth, on the one hand, followed by a higher decrease in the years of economic downturn after 2008, on the other, could be interpreted as evidence that cultural employment is more overexposed to cyclical economic fluctuations compared with other types of employment.

Figure 3:    Trend in cultural employment and total employment, 2005-2010

Source:     AEC elaborations on Istat data.

As for the determinants of trends in cultural employment, the more or less abundant availability of financial resources appears to be one of the most relevant. The declining trend in state support for culture and the arts and in private funding for culture due to the financial crisis (see chapter 6.2.3 and chapter 6.3) actually seems to closely reverberate in the stagnation of cultural employment over the considered lapse of time.

Focusing on employment in the cultural domain, diverging trends among the domains should also be singled out, with a slightly positive trend for heritage, stagnation for the performing arts, and a higher decrease for employment in the publishing industry, actually causing social unrest, as several newspapers, severely hit by cuts both in state subsidies (see chapter 4.2.3 and chapter 5.3.7) and in advertising revenue, are about to close down.

It should be noted that the socio-demographic variables in cultural employment with respect to the total employed population are the traditional ones, referring to a much higher educational level and a more autonomous occupational status (56% of self-employed in 2010). Worth noting is the low incidence of cultural employment in our socially and economically deprived, but culturally rich "Mezzogiorno": only 21%, against 28% in the country as a whole. Changes in the demographic variables between 2004 and 2010 only refer to the fall of the employment rate of young people aged between 15 and 29 years: from 19% to 15%. No good news for a country like ours, so richly endowed in artistic heritage and talents, but not able to invest in the younger generations to build up a "new creative class" (Richard Florida, 2002) able to foster an economic revival based on the social and economic exploitation of our heritage, as well as on the production of immaterial goods and services.

Official data on cultural employment - as defined and surveyed according to the Eurostat methodology - after 2010 are presently not available, as the impact of recent changes in the NACE and ISCO international nomenclatures of the Labour Forces Survey on measuring cultural employment have not yet been taken into account by Istat. The following currently available data on cultural employment in subsequent years are thus not comparable with the above mentioned Istat data: rather contradictory, they do not enjoy the same reliability.

The employment situation seems to have been getting worse since 2010 in the media and the performing arts world, according to data stemming from ex ENPALS (the social security agency for the media and the performing arts, sport and entertainment: see chapter 5.1.4). The number employed in music, theatre, cinema and radio-television inscribed at the agency (even, it should be noted, if working just a few days) has actually decreased by -13% between 2010 and 2013 (from 189 000 to 164 000 units), the worst decrease (­-19%) having been reached for music (data from the Gestione ex Enpals, 2014).

On the other hand, as far as recent years are concerned, more positive – if unofficial – data are coming from the Fondazione Symbola's Report, Io sono cultura 2015. The total numberemployed in the cultural and creative industries reached 1.4 million in 2014, of which 750 000 were in the creative industries and 650 000 in the cultural industries (more broadly defined than by Eurostat), the heritage andthe performing and visual arts sectors. Against a decline of 2% in total employment between 2012 and 2014, to be linked to the slow recovery from the financial downturn - employment in the cultural and creative industries grew instead by 1.4%!.. Even more, the pace was much faster for the heritage field (+7.9%) as well as for the performing and the visual arts sector (+6.4%), than for the creative industries as a whole (+0.4%)!

Chapter published: 14-07-2016