The number of self-employed workers in the cultural sector in Iceland decreased by 19% in the year of 2020, a report by Statistic Iceland confirms. The number had been growing since 2017, but started falling sharply after the pandemic hit in the beginning of last year.
In Iceland, self-employed workers are more common in culture and arts than in any other sector. Currently, 23.6% of those who work in culture are self-employed. In comparison, the rate of independent workers in other sectors in Iceland has been around 10% for the past five years.
Erling Jóhannesson, the president of the Federation of Icelandic Artists states in an interview with Fréttablaðið, that artists and others who work in culture have found themselves in a precarious situation since the pandemic hit, as these individuals commonly work as freelancers who do not have permanent jobs. “This group of people faced various bureaucratic hurdles and have not been offered proper solutions”.
He adds that member societies of the federation are unhappy about the new government’s fiscal policy, in which the government has cut the additional financial support to independent theatre groups which was introduced at the dawn of the pandemic.
“We are still trying to make people aware that the situation is not over yet. We are still just trying to keep afloat. The main issue is to reclaim the additional support funds in order to be able to create something; write music, create art,” Erling says.
In 2020, 12,700 individuals aged 16 to 74 worked within the cultural sector, or around 6.7% of the entire workforce. The number includes permanent employees.
The report demonstrates that the decrease in workers does not apply to permanent employees working in the cultural sector. On the contrary, there has been a slight increase in the number of those with permanent job posts in the cultural sector between 2019 and 2020, or 3.7%.