Written by Jessica Tanghetti and Lauren England
Even if history is characterized by the physiological alternance of periods of imbalances and recessions, none of them could be compared, in terms of effects, to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time in contemporary history, people across the globe have been forced to suddenly change their habits and working modalities, resulting in serious and deep social and economic consequences.
Cultural and creative industries, due to strict social distancing measures and enforced closures of venues, are among the sectors which have suffered the most from the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. Since the recognized relevance of CCIs, which contribute for $ 2.250 bn to the global economy (3% of GDP), accounting for $ 29,5 million jobs worldwide (Unesco, 2015), the sector has internationally become the subject of numerous surveys and studies, aiming to address the impact of the pandemic on the sector and its workers.
Comunian and England (2020) identified the following key concerns in initial (UK) sector surveys: the impact of Covid-19 on the immediate changes in revenues and its short-term economic viability. Wide-spread concern over the long-term financial impact and viability/survival of organisations and individuals’ ability to continue working in the CCIs was also highlighted. The second most visible concern was the support that CCIs and workers require in response to Covid-19. There was an emphasis on support requirements (from the sector and government, including understanding, eligibility and effectiveness of support available) and perceptions of government support measures (at the time of survey). The findings presented on this front identified issues in eligibility for government support measures.
A wide overview of the issue is provided by UNESCO, which in April 2020 launched the “Culture & COVID-19: Impact and Response Tracker” series, aiming to offer an analysis of the evolving cultural situation. Also, in May it released the report “Museums around the world in the face of Covid-19”, according to which 90% of museums in the world have closed for the pandemic and 10% will never open again. The key trend is represented by the resilience shown by museums in quickly developing their online presence. The issue is confirmed also by the report issued on museum and museum professionals by ICOM in May, which shows that social media activities increased for more than half of the museums surveyed. At the same time, according to respondents, there will be a reduction in projects and programmes in at least 80% of museums, a number that rises to 93% and 87% in the regions of Africa and the Pacific respectively.
Many studies have analysed the cultural landscape of European countries. One of most accurate has been issued by the German Government, where the Kompetenzzentrum Kultur und Kreativwirtschaft estimates that CCIs in Germany will experience a turnover loss of approximately EUR 21.7 billion or 12.7% of its annual turnover (conservative scenario) and a 23% loss (EUR 39.8 billion) in the most severe scenario, underlining that CCIs employs 1.7 million people with only 940 000 of them being employees benefiting from social protection.
An analytical overview has been provided also by the French Government, where the Ministry of Culture carried out a survey among 7,800 cultural players, according to which Covid-19 crisis will result in an average decrease in turnover of 25% in 2020 compared to 2019 (22.3 billion euros). The effect will be greatest on the performing arts sector (-72%), heritage (-36%), visual arts (-31%) and architecture (-28%).
In Italy the issue hasn’t been yet explored under an institutional level. Nevertheless, surveys have been conducted highlighting the precarity of cultural work, as the one by “Mi riconosci - sono un professionista dei beni culturali” which highlights that 79% of the respondents registered a decrease in their incomes due to the pandemic, while the 78% see as inadequate the measure provided by the Government to support the sector.
The full extent of the economic impact of Covid-19 on the UK’s creative industries is not yet known, although projections calculated from a number of UK sector surveys indicate ‘a combined £77 billion turnover loss over the course of 2020 compared to 2019 (-31%). In total, ‘409,000 CIs jobs are considered at risk’ (Oxford Economics, 2020, p.3). In London alone, it is estimated that the impact of Covid-19 on the ‘culture and creative industries together with its supply chain will cost the economy £16.3bn and put 151,000 jobs at risk’ (GLA, 2020).
The situation is severe also outside of Europe. The report “Measuring COVID-19’s devastating impact on America’s creative economy” highlights estimated losses of 2.7 million jobs and more than USD 150 billion in sales of goods and services for creative industries nationwide. The fine and performing arts industries will be hit hardest, suffering estimated losses of almost 1.4 million jobs and USD 42.5 billion in sales. In terms of creative occupations, the report estimates losses of more than 2.3 million jobs and USD 74 billion in average monthly earnings for the creative occupations, representing 30% of all creative occupations and 15% of total average monthly wages.
Different studies have instead analysed the impact of Covid-19 in CCIs in Africa: research from the five countries Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Kenya, Namibia and South Africa highlight that the financial losses regarding CCIs are unbalanced between the countries, ranging from USD 134,360.00 for Uganda to USD 1,493,639,269.27 for South Africa (Ribio Nzeza Bunketi Buse, 2020).
Another important finding is related to the precariousness of the cultural work - which has been exacerbated, rather than created, by the pandemic (Comunian & England, 2020). The vulnerability of creative work (and workers) in relation to the crisis has been widely acknowledged by sector organisations and individuals, with reports of devastating loss of income emerging as early as March 2020 (CIF 2020). Worldwide, 16,1% of the respondents to the ICOM study of museum professionals said they have been temporarily laid off, and 22,6% have not had their contracts renewed. The freelance sector is particularly fragile: 56,4% of the respondents stated that they will have to suspend the payment of their own salary as a result of the crisis, and 39,4% said their firms will have to reduce the number of staff. In Europe, the sector plays a considerable role, employing 8.7 million people in 2018, equivalent to 3.8 % of the total number of persons employed within the EU-28 (Eurostat, 2019). Even if it is still early to predict the effects of the pandemic under a quantitative point of view, data on enforced closures and events cancellations highlight an alarming situation for the sector and its workforce.