Fairer remuneration system called for cultural workers

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UNESCO has presented its new “Reshaping Policies for Creativity” report, outlining that only a few countries appear to be actively addressing the issue of fair remuneration for artists and creators in a changing digital environment. Mongolian artists are seeking to embrace the latest technologies and merge western techniques with Mongolian subject matter. The Ministry of Culture of Mongolia is even pursuing an e-culture policy. The ministry explains that cultural creations and resources must be combined with technical innovations to produce new types of products and put them into use. However, judging by the current situation, it does not provide enough revenue to support a professional career in Mongolia, as noted in UNESCO’s report.

The new report estimates that 10 million jobs were lost in the creative industries in 2020 alone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also calculated that the global Gross Value Added in the cultural and creative industries contracted by 750 billion USD in 2020. In countries for which data is available, the revenue of the cultural and creative industries is estimated to have decreased by 20 to 40 percent. However, in Mongolia, since the beginning, artists and workers in these sectors had little opportunity to make money. Prior to the new cultural policy, the government did not support the ability of artists to earn money in the digital environment at all. Despite the new policy, not all artists have the opportunity to value their works virtually.

For instance, last November, artist N.Sergelen sold some parts of his “One Day in the World” piece in non-fungible token (NFT) art for about 350 million MNT to foreign customers. The successful sale of NFT portions of the artwork showed that there is a technological opportunity to sell more works on the international market through NFT technology while keeping the original versions in Mongolia. Unfortunately, so far, we can cite only this example of realistically valuing art in the digital environment.

Moreover, the report from UNESCO says that the growth in streaming revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic has more than offset the decline in revenues from concerts and other sources. However, more action needs to be taken to address the streaming value gap. The streaming value gap is the disparity between the value that music-streaming platforms extract from musical content and the revenue generated by those who create and invest in creation.

Even in Mongolia, major festivals and concerts are being held online. In particular, the annual Playtime live music festival was organized virtually last year. Mongolian rock band The Hu also held an online concert at the White Rock Center to raise donations for pandemic responses of the State Emergency Commission. However, current monetization models in the digital environment are not sustainable for most artists, says the new UNESCO report. Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for culture, said, “We need to rethink how we build a sustainable and inclusive working environment for cultural and artistic professionals who play a vital role for society, the world over.”

Therefore, the report calls for more actions to support artists in an e-environment. They view that under the dominant streaming model there is no straightforward one-to-one link between what a user listens to and where the royalty payment goes. Instead, all streaming revenues effectively go into one big content pot, and artists’ royalties are allocated according to the overall market share of artists on the platform. This favors a small number of major international artists and acts, the report noted.

New legislation and collaborative projects involving companies and civil society organizations, which benefit artists without hindering their presence on platforms, are needed to guarantee the viability of artists around the world. The Law on Culture of Mongolia was revised last year. It included a regulation on the registration and use of all tangible and intangible cultural heritages. However, it does not regulate in detail how to do online streaming, how to protect their works, and how to make fair money. 

The “Reshaping Policies for Creativity” found that only a minority of countries are attempting to intervene directly to ensure that the digital market has a broad and diverse range of players. The report urges governments to continue to adopt and implement policies and measures that enhance the discoverability of diverse cultural expressions on digital platforms and safeguard content in local and minority languages. The report, therefore, advocates for the extension of quota systems for Video on Demand (commonly known as VOD) platforms to ensure that a proportion of content is produced locally or in minority or local languages. Governments should also consider tax incentives and other support measures for local productions, the report highlights.

Generally, this report underlines the urgent need to design fairer remuneration systems for artists for content consumed online.

BROADER MEASURES NEEDED TO PROTECT CULTURAL WORKERS

As mentioned before, the social security net for artists in Mongolia was already inadequate but the pandemic has exposed just how vulnerable workers in the cultural and creative sectors are. Public expenditure worldwide in the creative industries declined in the years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn, led to an unprecedented collapse in income and employment in the sector, magnifying the already precarious working conditions of many artists and cultural professionals around the globe.

The new UNESCO report calls on governments around the world to bring labor protection of artists and cultural professionals in line with that of the general workforce by adopting, for example, a minimum wage for cultural workers, as well as better pension and sick pay plans for freelancers. In fact, it can be said that no measures are currently being taken to protect and support cultural workers in Mongolia. Although the newly revised Law on Culture regulates the support of the government and businesses for artists operating in the cultural sector, there is no real protection for them, no equal distribution of financial support, and no minimum wage.

In the global report, UNESCO also beseeched states to reshape policies so that workers in the cultural sector are given better protection in the future. Moreover, it urges countries to ensure the diversity of cultural expressions. 

Development assistance devoted to culture and recreation is also on the decline and although the flow of cultural goods globally continues to rise, there has been very little progress in addressing the vast disparity between developed and developing countries, the report stated. This greatly limits the ability of the cultural sector - which accounts for 3.1 percent of global GDP and 6.2 percent of all employment – to drive sustainable economic growth in developing countries. In turn, it restricts people’s exposure to the diversity of cultural expressions from around the world at a time when there is a compelling case that diversity is good for business.

Other inequalities in the cultural and creative sectors like those faced by many women highlight the need for policy reform to ensure that a diversity of cultural expressions around the world is preserved in line with UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

The pandemic has proven the intrinsic value of the cultural and creative sector at generating social cohesion and economic growth in times of crisis. UNESCO firmly believes that the power of culture can be harnessed more effectively and should be utilized to tackle climate change and the other most pressing issues facing our world today.

NO POLICY TO EMPOWER FEMALE ARTISTS

One of the most crucial conclusions of the comprehensive global study of culture, conducted over the last four years by UNESCO, is about women’s participation and position in the cultural sector.

The study discovered that it remains much more difficult for women around the world to gain recognition and acclaim for their work in the creative and cultural professions. It also recognizes that women’s talent and merit are often heavily critiqued or dismissed. As a result, less than a third (32 percent) of national art prizes go to women. Despite noteworthy progress, only a third (33 percent) of awards in major categories go to women at the world’s most important film festivals, according to the report.

Only 27 percent of states contributing to the report say they have policies that actively promote women’s access to leadership positions.

The remaining 73 percent inevitably includes Mongolia. In other words, the local government does not have a comprehensive policy to support female artists.

The global #Metoo movement shone a light on prejudice and abuse faced by women in the creative industries. It also injected new momentum into efforts to address gender-based inequalities in the sector. However, it is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities as lockdowns and other restrictions tended to have a broader impact on women, who still very often shoulder the bulk of parental duties, UNESCO emphasized in the report.

Despite the scale of the challenge at hand, the report found that, all too often, achieving gender equality in the cultural and creative industries is not high on the list of many governments’ priorities.

“Many people are unaware that women are under-represented in leadership positions in the cultural and creative sector and have less access to public funding,” said Berta de Sancristobal from the UNESCO team which compiled the report.

“If we are to achieve our goal of ensuring that cultural content that people consume around the world is truly representative and diverse then we must fully address issues around gender equality,” she said.

With this in mind, the report calls on governments to link more funding decisions to gender equality. It calls for more policies and measures to break-down gender-based stereotypes on, and off camera. It argues that gender-based quotas for leadership roles in the sector can create positive change and it calls on all actors to eliminate working conditions which are incompatible with parental responsibilities.

Misheel Lkhasuren

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