Policy Text Analysis – UNESCO & European Commission

Policy Text Analysis – UNESCO & European Commission

 

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Introduction
Definitions
Economic Growth
Economic Centres
Responsibility & Regulations
Precariousness
Training & Knowledge Development
Conclusion


Introduction

Two policy texts from UNESCO and the European Commission were analysed and assessed to provide global context to the audiovisual maker research. The reason for looking at these two sources in depth is they provide a general overview of the creative labour market. The UNESCO text is particularly interesting because it compares creative activities in the Western world to other parts of the world, and interesting similarities appeared within the publication. While the European Commission does not address the situation in the United States, many concepts addressed apply to most Western societies. This similarity is a direct result of globalisation. Also, while some interviewees were solicited from the United States, a majority of them were based in Europe. What is most striking from both the texts is how they both promote the creative labour market as a positive solution to many national economies, which resonates both in Europe and the United States.

There is a strong emphasis on training, but a lack of insight into how these individuals are meant to provide their own protections and benefits. Another interesting point these publications suggest is how corporations should be picking up the role of the government. Both the UNESCO and European Commission publications underline the growth of neoliberalism in most societies. Their deflection of governmental responsibility directly correlates to the definition of neoliberalism found in the theoretical framework. It also important to note how these publications try to define the creative labour market. There are many ambiguous terms which apply to these individuals which can be swapped out depending on how a society views its workers. It appears to be a marketing strategy which appeals to the tendencies of the individuals a society wants to reach.

Definitions

A UNESCO publication titled, “Creative Economy Report 2013: Special Edition, Widening Local Development Pathways,” defines the creative economy by using John Howkins’ description. He uses the term for 15 industries spanning from the arts to technology. Cultural industries first appeared in the Frankfurt School in the 1930s and 1940s as a negative term to explain how art is transformed into a commercialised product. However, the UNESCO publication points out how this opinion shifted in a positive direction in the 1960s and began appearing in policy text in the 1980s to include “music, art, writing, fashion and design, and media industries, e.g. radio, publishing, film and television production.” UNESCO commodification does not dilute artistic expression within the cultural industries.

On a much broader level, the term creative industries, which includes elements of the cultural industries, began appearing in the national cultural policy of Australia in the 1990’s. The United Kingdom then included it in its Department for Culture, Media, and Sport. Both Charles Landry, who consulted with the British government to develop the idea of a “creative city,” and Richard Florida, the theorist responsible for the “creative class” used the term “cultural industries” in their urban planning discussions, giving it credibility. Richard Florida’s “creative class” was a vague grouping of labourers which included individuals outside the creative and cultural industries. Although it was initially highly regarded by mayors of cities in the United States, northern Europe and East Asia, Richard Florida’s “creative class” was met by much criticism regarding its lack of supporting data.

The UNESCO publication points out how there are many vague terms to define creative labour and are often used as buzzwords to express innovation and economic growth in a particular area. To combat confusion with semantics, UNESCO states that, according to Kate Oakley in “Better than working for a living? Skills and Labour in the Festival Economy,” the creative economy should be viewed “as a complex system that derives its ‘economic value’ from the facilitation of economic evolution – a system that manufactures attention, complexity, identity and adaptation through the primary resource of creativity.” Due to weak links between the creative industries and cultural industries and economic development, UNESCO chose to stick with the term, creative economy. However, this is equally as ambiguous as the rest and lacks a clear definition from Howkins.

Not to be confused with the creative economy, the UNESCO publication uses another term called the cultural economy. The use of the word economy in both terms is meant to remind us how such activities are related to the demands of capitalism. According to Allen J. Scott in “The cultural economy: geography and the creative field,” “…the cultural economy comprises all those sectors in modern capitalism that cater to consumer demands for amusement, ornamentation, self-affirmation, social display and so on…” This example is meant to show how the activities of the cultural and creative economies are linked to consumer demand and cater to the needs of individuals. The UNESCO publication mirrors this and states that it is human nature to become preoccupied and care about things like social exchange and personal relationships. Both the cultural and creative economies appeal to these humanistic tendencies.

It is also worth noting the context in which the first “Creative Economy Report” was published and how UNESCO defines members of the creative labour market. The first publication was released in 2008, roughly around the same time of the Great Recession of 2008. The 2013 publication acknowledges the economic crisis while stating that the economy was still growing. When mentioning the creative labour market, the key industries UNESCO seems to be referring to are “high-technology industry, neo-artisanal manufacturing, business and financial services, culture-products industries (including the media), and so on.” Additionally, UNESCO included the following categories in its findings, “…research and development (R&D), entertainment, literary and artistic originals, and software.” The publication then goes on to say how these industries are good for the environment and are concentrated in major cities. Given the vague nature of how these organisations define the creative labour market, it seems these categories can be switched based on what seems most appealing.

Another publication titled “Creative Skills Europe: Trends and skills in the European audiovisual and live performance sectors” compiled by the European Skills Council for employment and training in the Audiovisual and Live Performance sectors, and involves data collected during 2014-2016 from eight participating EU countries (Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Finland, Germany, and Spain), uses the 2012 ESSnet CULTURE report, published by the European Commission, to classify the cultural and creative sectors in the following categories, heritage, libraries, books and press, visual arts, performing arts, audio-visual and multimedia, architecture, advertising, and arts and crafts. The ESSnet CULTURE report acknowledges the vagueness of these terms and advised the European Skills Council for employment and training in the Audiovisual and Live Performance sectors to develop more detailed categories to better identify individuals and their activities. Such clear definitions will make it easier for organisations like the European Commission to gather data on how much economic growth these individuals provide.

Contributing parties to the “Creative Skills Europe” publication include EURO-MEI (media, entertainment and arts sector of the UNI Europa), International Federation of Actors (FIA), International Federation of Musicians (FIM), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Performing Arts Employers Associations League Europe (PEARLE), and the European Coordination of Independent Producers (CEPI). Other organisations which contributed knowledge and insight include, mediaarte.be, Fonds Social du Secteur Audiovisuel & Fonds Social de la Production de films / Sociaal Fonds voor de Audiovisuele sector & Fonds voor de filmproductie (Belgium), Sociaal Fonds voor de Podiumkunsten (Belgium), Commission Paritaire Nationale Emploi Formation Audiovisuel (France), Commission Paritaire Nationale Formation Spectacle Vivant (France), GOC, Expert-center for the creative industries (the Netherlands), Creative Skillset (United Kingdom), and Creative & Cultural Skills (United Kingdom). Although the report mostly focused on how digitisation affects those working in the audio-visual and live performance sector, concepts and arguments found in the report are applicable to the entire creative labour market.

Economic Growth

Many policy texts refer to creativity as a means of economic growth. According to the UNESCO publication, the United Nations views culture as a critical component of future prosperity. Aside from boosting the economy, members of the creative labour market are seen as part of an innovative movement which fuels immaterial societal benefits. More importantly, this emphasis on individual cultural development regarding economic growth implies that it is up to the people to inspire change. Within the UNESCO publication, sources include reports from WIPO, ITC, and other UNESCO publications. UNESCO is aiming to demonstrate how the creative labour market creates jobs and generates revenue. In fact, “world trade of creative goods and services totalled a record US$ 624 billion in 2011 and…it more than doubled from 2002 to 2011…” While this certainly shows growth, other external factors like a shift from full-time employment to contract-based work are not mentioned.

Returning to the argument about immaterial societal benefits, the UNESCO publication says that the creative labour market fosters better communities and overall quality of life. A document published by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development titled, “The future we want, “ is referenced to show how culture and creativity has a positive impact on humanity. Since individuals are being pushed to take more responsibility and be part of the solution, there is a sense of inclusion regarding how a society develops. In considering all of this, the UNESCO publication aims to influence more growth of the creative labour market and gain additional support as part of the Post-2015 United Nations Development Agenda. Discussions and findings in reports such as these influenced the society we are living in now.

Economic Centres

Although, according to the UNESCO publication the creative labour market aims to create social equality, most of the economic activity is still centred around major cities and corporations in the global North. “The creative economy tends to concentrate today in great world cities that are already central places of financial capital, investment and power or have significant historical legacies of social and cultural mixing.” While creative labour is viewed as a less structured form of labour, there are still parameters and powers which cause restrictions. The creative labour market still heavily relies on financial capital and institutions and individuals that can supply funding. Some cities, like São Paulo, are trying to combat this by giving everyone access to cultural institutions. The plan is to inspire citizens to create new projects and drive artistic interest to the city, which will result in increased cultural tourism and revenue for the city.

Also keeping power in the global North are cultural gatekeepers like booking agents, broadcasters, managers, programmers, and film festivals. Festivals, of any kind, are viewed as an effective way to engage local and international talent while attracting new citizens and cultural gatekeepers to an area. Since these festivals are an incredibly effective way to attract tourists, many municipalities are only interested in the end goal. They do not become involved with how these festivals are run. Interestingly, the UNESCO publication describes festivals as a collaborative effort which may be run by unpaid or volunteer labour. Also, the report points out how leadership and entrepreneurial skills are essential for running a successful festival. It does not say which qualities an entrepreneur needs to lead an organisation such as a festival or that these events are much more economically beneficial for the municipality than the individual.

One tool for spreading economic power throughout the world is the internet. Since a lot of creative individuals work remotely, location is becoming less important. However, face-to-face networking within the creative labour market in the global North is still important for conducting business. In the case of artists, travelling long distances is less economically advantageous than easily moving between cities. These geographical factors further limit more remote areas from attracting major artists, gatekeepers, and stakeholders. Moving to a major creative centre is still seen as an important career development exercise. This is especially true for artists who want to push their boundaries, learn new skills, find new opportunities and understand their competition. However, some artists see that living in a remote area can help them focus on their projects with minimal distractions. Even in these situations, the artist still needs to be connected to individuals in an urban centre to participate in the commercialised art world. Many members of the creative labour market risk losing relevancy by leaving an urban centre in the global North.

Responsibility & Regulations

Individual and community ownership is stressed throughout the UNESCO publication as a positive result of the creative labour market. This sense of ownership is seen as a way of creating opportunities for individuals to build social capital while developing their communities, “…inclusive social and economic development, environmental sustainability and peace and security.” With this ownership, the publication points out how sharing responsibilities helps develop a more inclusive society focused on the individual. Ownership also gives people a greater sense of purpose and allows them to further engage with other individuals and their communities. The publication alludes to a sense of empowerment which puts these individuals in charge of their own destiny and future of the world. This sense of perceived control is very much in line with how neoliberal governments are quietly shifting responsibilities to citizens.

Another prominent feature of the creative labour market is how it relies on informal processes and is mostly made up of small enterprises. Many creative individuals are working outside the realm of regulations which are meant to protect full-time employees. Although the UNESCO publication says this is a major characteristic of developing countries, a similar sense of deregulation is found in most developed countries. The lack of structure found in a case study which describes the conditions of the Nigerian movie industry, called Nollywood is not that different than the creative labour market in most Western societies. Both economic areas are interested in producing more for less while reaching a global audience. Also, as mentioned in the theoretical framework, although more protections are in place in the Western world, they are likely to be ignored by members of the creative labour market. Informality is prevalent among creative individuals, regardless of socioeconomic factors.

Regarding protection and benefits for individuals working in the creative labour market, the UNESCO publication suggests that regulation is better suited for local governments than at the national level. This evasion of responsibility means there are limited overarching policies which protect these individuals. Also, since local governments potentially benefit the most from the creative labour market, it seems it is in their best interest to keep these individuals deregulated. Other topics surrounding this discussion of regulating members of the creative labour market include ethics, access to funding, connectivity, globalisation, and intellectual rights. Within this context, the publication points out how local governments in less developed regions like the global South are forced to take more responsibility. In some cases, they offer tax incentives to investors in an effort to create economic growth. Even in these cases, local governments are willing to change policies to position themselves as a creative labour hub, but because these individuals are classified as entrepreneurs they must find their own protection.

Precariousness

The Creative Skills Europe report acknowledges the precarious conditions many individuals in the audio-visual and live performance sectors face, which again, based on research in the theoretical framework, applies to the creative labour market. Much like the creative labour workforce, both the audio-visual and live performance sectors are saturated with young individuals. Also, these industries are made up of mostly small-sized companies (entrepreneurs), and “…count a large (and increasing) number of professionals operating outside the standard ‘employee status’ (as freelancers, intermittent workers, self-employed, etc. or any other status as provided by the provisions of national labour law).” The report then goes on to discuss how digitisation has changed what these individuals need to learn and how they work. According to the report, to remain competitive, it is important to become a master of multiple skills. Also, since a lot of audio-visual and performing arts organisations depend on government funding, these workers are dependent on public funds. Much like with the corporate world, governments were able to rationalise tighter spending after the Great Recession of 2008. The report also found that much like the rest of the creative labour market, employment contracts are being shortened and more individuals are working on a contractual basis.

Additionally, the “Creative Skills Europe” report states that “…for example, the number of workers who are unemployed, or in between contracts, or are active in other sectors while looking for sector assignments, is very high. Employment statistics, can therefore, be misleading, given that, generally speaking, there are a great many more potential workers than the ones who show up in the statistics (21).” This ability to manipulate data is a very interesting observation considering it was alluded to how the creative labour market generally improves unemployment rates and causes an economic area to appear more successful on paper. It is much harder to track these individuals considering many are operating under a self-employed structure and technically not unemployed. Most unemployment benefit schemes require a person who was employed by another party to report their updated status. Although these individuals may be out of work, they are often not eligible for unemployment and therefore do not show up in statistical data.

In the UNESCO publication, the topic of ethics is briefly touched upon but is not explained how issues are regulated or monitored within the creative economy. The report states, “…we still do not know exactly how ethical decision-making emerges in this context and how people in challenging circumstances negotiate constraints to put together enterprises that suit local needs.” The report even mentions how activities within the creative labour market are not entirely free from personal gain or manipulation and developing a universal ethics policy is difficult. It does say that such employment arrangements need an effective communication strategy and that the benefits should be shared among those involved. This area seems to be less developed than the other points the publication makes. The UNESCO publication appears to think that guaranteed payment is possible if a creative individual sets up adequate copyright/intellectual property protection and subscribes to a labour union. However, as discussed when mentioning “coolness” and social and cultural capital, members of the creative labour market often turn a blind eye to such organised protections as they want to appear under the radar.

Training & Knowledge Development

To reiterate, the UNESCO publication views intellectual property and copyright protection as an essential part of the creative labour market. These knowledge-based resources add value to information-centric systems and are intended to protect a creative individual’s works. These knowledge protection protocols are supposed to help members of the creative labour market monetise their ideas. The publication states that intellectual property is an invaluable tool for economic development. Without such protection, revenue and potential opportunities could be lost. While there are efforts to create multinational intellectual property structures, most regulations are handled at the national and local level. It is really up to the creative individual to make sure their works and ideas are protected. They are also responsible for enforcing laws if the intellectual property is leaked and shared. Given the amount of information available on the internet, it becomes harder for these individuals to prove where an idea originated.

To increase competency, involving intellectual property protection, the “Creative Skills Europe” report advises for better career development and training at the national level and improved management policies on the sector level. Also, the report says on-the-job training opportunities should increase. They suggest that this should happen with incentivised partnerships between organisations and learning institutions. Much of the report focuses on lifelong training and advises for much improvement in this area. While it is important to foster a better trained workforce, these initiatives do not directly correlate to members of the creative labour market. This disconnect is caused by the fact that these individuals are operating as entrepreneurs which, in the eyes of corporations, should be responsible for their career development. Also, given how these individuals often train themselves through online resources and are not inclined to share such information, these ideas seem impractical. It is viewed that this knowledge allows individuals to advance their careers. They are not incentivised to level the playing field. It is clear, however, from both the UNESCO publication and “Creative Skills Report” how much of the creative labour market depends on the knowledge economy.

As part of its recommendations, the “Creative Skills Europe” report suggests that collaborative learning spaces should be established. It also calls for successful initiatives in various countries which aim to develop the skills of members of the creative labour market. Much of the learning experience focuses on physical spaces and locations for creative individuals to receive training. However, as the internet continues to propel the speed of information sharing and causes skills to become obsolete at a rapid pace, it is hard to see how these initiatives can guarantee the most up to date skills are taught. Oddly enough, the report refers to the digital environment as a content creation space which is separate from the learning space. The report suggests that funds should be allocated for training so creative individuals can have a better understanding of new digital tools. It seems as though too much emphasis is being placed on a location-based approach which no longer applies in the digital age. Also, while the report is advocating for employers to improve on-the-job training initiatives, the government is taking the responsibility.

Another issue with members of the creative labour market attending career-development classes and programmes is their tight schedules. The “Creative Skills Europe” report says, “The right balance must be found in a technician’s training between the time spent in school classrooms and workshops and the time spent learning in the workplace (80).” In a capitalist-driven society, the primary focus of creative individuals working under precarious labour conditions is to remain connected to their client and project and continually show their dedication. These individuals fear they could be easily replaced by someone more dedicated. Although career development training is an excellent exercise for improving one’s skills, a client who is only interested in seeing a final product is not interested in providing more resources. Such training benefits the creative individual more than the client. The report even acknowledges that the creative labour market is highly attractive and that job demand is much higher than supply.

Conclusion

From these texts, it is clear to see how governments view their role within the creative labour market. They seem to believe that by providing more opportunities for entrepreneurial growth they are allowing these individuals to define their own futures. While acknowledging certain issues like training, development, precariousness, and the informal nature in which creative individuals tend to work, these publications seem to provide no clear solution for helping members of the creative labour market protect themselves from unemployment and devaluation. The Creative Skills Europe, in particular, does address how these individuals can sometimes work for free, but also implies that this is part of the territory. UNESCO says this desire to freely connect is just part of human nature. There is a more of a rationalistic approach as to why members of the creative labour market can become left behind, and it is implied that it is their responsibility. What is missing is a sense of how these individuals deal with various work dynamics created by the creative labour market and what expectations and challenges they face. The interviews found in the interview report illustrate how these ambitious and seemingly positive initiatives do not always translate in the real world.

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