Tuesday, 31 July 2012

French artists may suffer from benefit cuts

The state auditor of France today said that unemployment benefit payments to artists and other creatives were unsustainable.  France is in a rather unique position in that it artists and creatives have a special system since 1960 called “intermittents du spectacle” to collect unemployment benefits, that is the envy of many artists across Europe.  The system recognises that a feature within their industry is that they may have gaps in-between jobs and so cushions some of the problems that arise with this.  The system is not up for review until next year but it is currently running at a €1bn deficit.  The state auditor stated that the system "is not sustainable in the current context of public finances".  Employers were also criticised as they potentially hire workers for the minimum hours needed and then expect this benefit to make up the shortfall.

This is not the first time changes to unemployment benefits for French artists have been touted.  In 2003 strikes in Avignon, mobilised by over 135,000 freelance performing arts, film and television professionals, closed down one of France’s most recognisable theatre festival and resulted in the sacking of the then culture minister.

The French president François Hollande is yet to make a public statement on this issue, but it would seem  that cuts to unemployment benefits in this area may not go down well with Socialists who are seen as the party that will protect the public from the brunt of the recession.  The system does not have strong opposition from the general public.  Dissenting voices in France on this issue, which tend to come from the right, argue that the arts are too costly and the “intermittents du spectacle” system is unnecessary.

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