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Work Flows and Flexicurity: Canadian Cultural Labour in the Era of the Creative Economy

Mirjam Gollmitzer and Catherine Murray

May 2009

The cultural sector is experiencing massive changes due to globalization, technological innovation, the withdrawal of public funding and deregulation. At the same time, there is a heightened interest of local, provincial, national and international policy-makers – from creative city initiatives to the United Nations – in the economic as well as social relevance of the sector.  The authors of this report welcome this increased attention to creative work but think that the key to promoting the sector has either not been recognized yet or is neglected by policy-makers. This key is a framework that contains rules for creative labour processes and offers social protection as well as employment and income security to the creative work force.

The main focus of the current report is therefore labour regulation and its potential to foster the creative labour force in a substantial and sustainable way. One major goal is the development of a policy framework that offers a comprehensive view on creative labour that is firmly rooted in thinking about universal standards, policy responsibilities, and policy strategies before concrete policy measures are considered.

For the purposes of this report, flexicurity refers to income security for self-employed or part time workers. “Flexicurity” is a term in broad use especially in Europe, but one of the best descriptions emerges from Denmark, describing the special Danish three-sided mix of (1) flexibility on the labour market combined with (2) social security and (3) an active labour market policy with rights and obligations for the unemployed. The actual word is a contraction of flexibility and security. Mirjam Gollmitzer and Catherine Murray use three strategies in this piece. They start with a review of academic literature that looks at labour in the new economy from a critical perspective. The second section of this report is dedicated to Canadian as well as international policy developments in labour regulation for non-standard employment. Third, the authors consulted experts in labour and creative labour from across Canada in order to explore how they evaluate the current situation of creative workers as well as policy ideas for these workers.

As a result, this report provides insights into the chances for as well as obstacles to policy-making for creative labour. Examples of successful, non-traditional organization of the creative work force are provided and the growing importance of international labour regulation is noted. Moreover, international policy thinking is moving towards a consensus regarding the protection of non-standard workers through basic access to health benefits, regulation of working time, the possibility of collective bargaining and non-discrimination of part-time and fixed-term workers. While there is an encouraging awareness among policy-makers of the importance to support such workers, creative workers are so far not perceived as one group of vulnerable or precarious workers in need of such protection.

For now, Gollmitzer and Murray present a model derived from the research conducted for this report which establishes the basic steps to comprehensive policy-making for creative labour. There are four different strategies to choose from which can be used to advocate for creative labour. These include emphasizing creative sub-sectors, a sectoral or unique circumstances approach to policy-making, a creative economy approach pointing to the economic value of culture, and the classification of creative workers as one group of vulnerable or precarious workers among others.

The authors conclude with the observation that principles guiding social and employment security for creative workers now need to be translated into concrete policy measures (located at the top level of the pyramid), complementing already existing tools that offer business/entrepreneurial support.

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