Artists literally starving in Chile, study states

Lacking contracts and basic labor rights, Chilean arts and culture workers are now considered a ‘vulnerable population.’

According to a recent study, Chile’s undervaluation of art and culture has led to alarming unemployment figures in that sector.

Over 4,000 people from the regions of Antofagasta, Maule, Valparaíso and Santiago were asked about their living and working conditions in a study conducted by the Observatory of Culture Politics (OPC). The study is part of an EU-financed project called Trama, which aims to improve the art and culture’s economic sustainability and create a network of artists around the country.

According to the study, unemployment among arts and culture workers is almost 1 percent higher than the national average of 6.2 percent, and a third of all Chilean artists do not expect to earn a dime at the end of each month.

During focus groups for the investigation, one participant from Santiago expressed his biggest concern.

“Clearly, the main problem is the lack of labor rights. When a project is over, you’re out of work, you’re out of money and have to wait three more months for the next project, and in between you just survive,” he said.

Independent freelancers make up nearly 57 percent of all cultural workers in the country.

According to OPC, only a third of culture workers obtain contracted labor, as opposed to almost two thirds of the national average. Out of all of the artists and culture workers surveyed, only 37 percent said they were able to save up for some sort of pension.

Despite these precarious working conditions, the nation’s cultural output has significantly increased within the last few years. If note, Chilean films experiences a 121.4 percent increase in debuts between 2009 and 2013.

“We can see that artistic creation is dynamic and growing. There is an increase in the number of movies and plays, sustained mostly by the efforts of arts and culture workers,” OPC director and study author Bárbara Negrón said.

“So we see that human capital is so important. Imagine how much it would multiply if working conditions were improved,” she concluded.

The Santiago Times | By Linn Helene Løken and Amanda Rutllant

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