Anniversary of UNESCO’s Status of the Artist Recommendation
In 1980, Ireland became a signatory to the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, a declaration aimed at improving the socio-economic condition of artists. October 27th marks the 32nd anniversary of the Declaration which affirmed the right of artists to the same legal, social and economic advantages enjoyed by other workers, including the right to organize collectively and defend their common interests.
It recommended governments take actions on the following:
- Employment, working and living conditions of artists.
- Recognition of the rights of their professional and union organizations.
- Social status, including measures to ensure equivalent status to other workers in areas such as health and insurance.
- Protection of freedom of expression and protection of intellectual property rights.
- The education and training of artists.
- The importance of arts education.
Ireland, as a signatory, should provide that mechanisms are put in place for a wide range of education, social and economic, and moral supports for artists. However, while Ireland has made progress on some of these issues, successive governments have failed to enshrine the principles of the UNESCO Declaration into national law through Status of the Artist legislation.
Have your voice heard
VAI invites our members, supporters and stakeholders to join us in celebrating this anniversary on October 27th. We feel that the best way to do this is to remind our elected representatives of the promise made in 1980.
We have identified the key sections from the UNESCO Recommendation which require attention and the action points required to address these at the end of this article. We ask that you use them to start or inform your thinking, and to identify areas that are of specific concern to you. From that point we are anxious to have our artist members flesh them out and to contribute to their development. Feedback can be sent to VAI Advocacy Officer, Alex Davis.
Please also consider writing to the Minister for Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Affairs and also to your local TD on this issue. We have provided a sample letter below which you can use or adapt. On the occasion of the anniversary it is valuable to reassert the importance of this declaration.
Sample Letter to Minister
(Copy and paste into your own email or letter). Minister Jimmy Deenihan, TD, Department of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Affairs, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
RE: Anniversary of UNESCO’s Status of the Artist Recommendation
Dear Minister Deenihan,
On October 27th, 1980, the General Conference of UNESCO affirmed the right of artists to the same legal, social and economic advantages enjoyed by other workers, including the right to organize collectively and defend their common interests. Ireland, as a signatory to the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, undertook to provide that mechanisms are put in place for a wide range of education, social and economic, and moral supports for artists.
32 years later artists are struggling under many of the same conditions that existed in 1980 (another time of recession) and yet Ireland has still not formally adopted many of the basic principles of the UNESCO Declaration into national law. It is fair to say there is profound disappointment at the slow pace of developments in Ireland.
There is still a distinct lack of understanding of the unique manner in which artists typically work, as self-employed creators. Their work is not secure and mostly low paid, they lack collective bargaining rights and labour standards, access to programs and the social security benefits that other workers have.
The UNESCO Recommendation affirms the rights of artists to be considered as cultural workers and consequently to benefit from all the legal, social and economic advantages pertaining to the status of workers. Status of the Artist legislation is urgently required to explicitly recognize the artists’ role in society and to reflect the unique way in which artists earn their living.
Action is needed now to help secure a vibrant artistic culture which can make the fullest possible contribution to Irish society and its future. We urge you to put the UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of the Artist on the agenda for government and fulfill the promise which Ireland made 32 years ago.
Yours,[Artist] / [arts supporter]
Minister Jimmy Deenihan, TD,
Department of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Affairs,
23 Kildare Street,
- For more impact include a couple of sentences about what the adoption of the Recommendations would mean to you as an artist or as a supporter of the arts.
Key articles from the UNESCO Recommendation :
Article IV (1).
Member States should encourage, at school and from an early age, all measures tending to strengthen respect for artistic creation and the discovery and development of artistic vocation.
Article V (3).
Take the necessary steps to see that artists enjoy the same rights as are conferred on a comparable group of the active population by national and international legislation in respect of employment and living and working conditions, and see that self-employed artists enjoy, within reasonable limits, protection as regards income and social security.
Article VI (5).
Member States are invited to endeavour within their respective cultural environments to provide the same social protection for employed and self-employed artists as that usually granted respectively to other employed and self-employed groups. Provision should likewise be made for measures to extend appropriate social protection to dependent members of the family. The social security system which Member States may find it well to adopt, improve or supplement should take into consideration the special features of artistic activity, characterized by the intermittent nature of employment and the sharp variations in the incomes of many artists without, however, this entailing a limitation of the artist’s freedom to create, publish and disseminate his work. In this context, Member States are invited to consider the adoption of special means of financing social security for artists, for example by resorting to new forms of financial participation either by the public authorities or by the business undertakings which market or which use the services or works of artists.
Article VI (7a)
Convinced of the uncertainty of artists’ incomes and their sudden fluctuations, of the special features of artistic activity and of the fact that many artistic callings can be followed only for a relatively short period of life, Member States are invited to make provision for pension rights for certain categories of artists according to length of career and not the attainment of a certain age and to take into account in their taxation system the particular conditions of artists’ work and activity.
Key priorities/action points identified by VAI summarized :
- Ensure that arts education is placed at the centre of the curriculum development agenda.
- Ensure that art is a core subject in primary and second level education.
- Seek by means of incentives, such as granting of fellowships or paid educational leave, to ensure that artists have the opportunity to bring their knowledge up to date in their own disciplines or in related specialties and fields.
Taxation and social benefits
- Introduce income-averaging to allow self-employed artists to cope with the significant fluctuations in annual income that routinely occur from year to year.
- Implementation of a review of the PRSI system as it pertains to self employed artists, ensuring that the system recognises the cyclical nature of their income, and the ability to balance payments over several years.
- Retention of the Artists Tax Exemption Scheme
- Creation of a grant scheme that supports artists at the beginning of their careers, in particular during the initial period when they are attempting to devote themselves completely to their art. Such a scheme could be designed so that a claw back system starts when artists’ income levels reach a certain level.
- Create an employment scheme that will allow artists to gain additional income from within the sector by matching cultural institutions staffing deficits with cultural workers who are currently registered as unemployed.
- Introduce collective management of the Artists Resale Right (Droit de Suite)
- Payment of professional rates by government bodies and their agencies
- Visual Artists Ireland Advocacy Data Sheet # 1:
- Text of the 1980 UNESCO Recommendation:
- International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFFACA). Status of the Artist legislation from around the world:
- International Federation of Actors. Status of the Artist Manifesto: