Workers in the arts and entertainment sector


Workers in the arts and entertainment sector (AES)[1] often lack effective access to social protection. The insufficient extent of coverage in many countries stems from the deficiency of social protection schemes to address and accommodate the specificities of AES work. These include diverse forms of employment, including self-employment, temporary or open-ended, part-time or full-time employment relationships with one or more employers, or a combination thereof. Further AES work is often characterized by irregular incomes and a reliance on the demand of the customer or audience and the season and therefore an intermittent nature of work often combined with a geographically, sometimes international mobility. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit AES workers hard and has manifested and aggravated these already existing inequalities and gaps. 

To address these insufficiencies, States must overcome certain challenges in extending social protection. These include the legal exclusion of AES workers from social protection schemes, which are often limited to certain categories of employees and preclude self-employed or part-time and short-time workers. In addition, the often-exercised contributory scheme of monthly payment contrasts to the irregular and varying income of AES workers. Apart from the legal framework, AES workers are often de facto excluded due to the diversity and fluidity of employment relationships resulting in sporadic contribution or fragmented coverage, diverse types of remuneration or unconsidered und not remunerated hidden working time. Lastly, all of these specificities of AES work result in an uneven union representation that prevents AES workers from collective action on their behalf. 

States’ responses and good practices to these challenges are manifold including adapting social protection systems and relying on a variety of financing mechanisms, administrative arrangements and simplification, and improving the portability of social security benefits between employment statuses and countries (for more information see resources below).  

Nevertheless, the extension of social protection to AES workers remains challenging. The pandemic revealed the need for flexible and innovative contributory and non-contributory schemes to accommodate AES workers. However, States have the unique opportunity to build upon the temporary measures adopted during the COVID-19 crisis and some countries have already shown that extending social protection to the AES is possible. 

[1] According to the International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC), Rev. 4 (2008), creative, arts and entertainment activities include the operation of facilities and provision of services to meet the cultural and entertainment interests of their customers. This includes the production and promotion of, and participation in, live performances, events or exhibits intended for public viewing; the provision of artistic, creative or technical skills for the production of artistic products and live performances.  

Photo credit: “Accordionist” International Labour Organization via Flickr


Adequacy of Benefits

From a rights-based perspective, the level of benefits provided must be adequate. According to the CESCR’s General Comment 19 (para 22), “Benefits, whether in cash or in kind, must be adequate in amount and duration in order that everyone may realize his or her rights to family protection and assistance, an adequate standard of living […]

Adequate legal and institutional framework and long-term social protection strategies

A human rights-based approach to social protection requires grounding social protection systems in a strong legal and institutional framework. This should ensure both programme stability and the recognition of beneficiaries as rights holders. The need to provide for strong legal frameworks that clearly lay out entitlements, rights and obligations is provided for in Recommendation No. […]

Equality and Non-discrimination

Non-discrimination and equality are core elements of the international human rights normative framework. Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that every human being is entitled to all rights and freedoms “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, […]

Ensure Meaningful and Effective Participation

Meaningful and effective participation of rights holders must be a key component of any social protection system. This is what builds trust and public support behind schemes and ensures that there is a sense of ownership. The participation of right holders is important during the social protection policy making processes but also as regards the […]

Legal Instruments

Argentina, Ley 27203, Acitividad Actoral

The Argentinian law No. 27203 defines the scope of actions of an actor-performer and equates them. Further, it introduces a special method to estimate the number of years of service and contributions to the social security scheme (Article 13). Link to Ley 27203

Germany, Künstlersozialversicherungsgesetz

The mainly mandatory scheme for artists was set up in 1983 and accommodates a broad list of occupations. Under the Artists’ Social Security Act, persons who benefit from art and creation are obliged to contribute as employers. These contributions are subsidized by the Government. The rest is paid by the CCS workers themselves.

India, The Code on Social Security (2020)

The amendment of September 2020 reforms and consolidates India’s social security laws with the goals to extend social security to all employees and workers either in the organised or unorganised or any other sectors and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

India, Atal Pension Yojana

The Atal Pension Yojana, which was set up in 2015, targets informal and self-employed workers who do not contribute to any other pension programmes and do not pay income tax. The key feature for this target is the flexibility of the scheme. Contributions can be made monthly, quarterly or even every six months, making it […]

Republic of Korea, Artist Welfare Act

Korea adopted the Artist Welfare Act in 2011 with the purpose to legally protect the professional status and rights of artists; to promote the creative activities of artists; and to contribute to artistic development by providing artists with welfare support services (Article 1). Link to the Artist Welfare Act (english)

Uruguay, Ley 18.384, Artistas y Oficios Conexos

With Law 18.384 Uruguay adapted the labour and social insurance conditions to artistic jobs. The law defines the scope of actions of performance and extents coverage for all activities which are carried out in dependence, e.g. the law recognises rehearsal time as service if a contract has been signed (Article 2). Link to Ley 18.384

Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102)

A reference for the development of social security systems, Convention No. 102 is the flagship of the up-to-date social security Conventions since it is deemed to embody the internationally accepted definition of the very principle of social security.  Convention No. 102 is unique for both its conceptual formulation of social security, and the guidance it provides for […]

Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202)

Recommendation No. 202 is the first international instrument to offer guidance to countries to close social security gaps and progressively achieve universal protection through the establishment and maintenance of comprehensive social security systems. To this aim, the Recommendation calls for (1) the implementation, as a priority, of social protection floors (SPF) as a fundamental element […]


Extend social protection to workers in the cultural and creative sector

Lockdown measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of theatres and cinemas, and the suspension or cancellation of movie, television and music productions. Many workers in the industry lost their jobs and had no social protection to help them. A new ILO study shows that extending social protection to the creative and […]

Extending social protection to the cultural and creative sector

This policy brief outlines the challenges in extending social protection to the cultural and creative sector (CCS), which were exposed by the COVID-19 crisis. These include, inter alia, legal and de facto exclusion due to the specificities of CCS work such as fluctuating employment status, irregular incomes, intermittent nature of work or geographic mobility. The […]

Social Protection in the Cultural and Creative Sector: Country Practices and Innovations

The ILO Working Paper examines social protection schemes covering workers in the cultural and creative sector (CCS). After an overview of economic and employment trends in the CCS, the working paper reviews policy and legal frameworks in selected countries that have pursued specific solutions to extend social security to workers in the CCS, in order […]

Cross-border employment in the life performance sector: Exploring the social security and employment status of highly mobile workers

The report provides an overview of the characteristics of the live performance sector including its transnational dimension and analyses it against the backdrop of social security law and labour law. It identifies the challenges for the application of both legal regimes and ends by providing an overview of possible solutions to these challenges.

Cultural and creative industries in the face of COVID-19: An economic impact outlook

The UNESCO report identifies which cultural and creative industries have been disrupted the most by the pandemic and attempts to measure the economic impact of COVID-19 on the cultural and creative sector. Looking ahead, the report explores some of the newer ways in which digital technologies are being used by audiences and cultural professionals.

Culture shock: COVID-19 and the cultural and creative sectors

The OECD Policy Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lays out how the cultural and creative sector is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and identifies factors that make the effects long-lasting. It describes the fragility of the cultural and creative sector and the inadequacy of social protection schemes to offset and to lessen the effects. It […]

Work for a brighter future – Global Commission on the Future of Work

The Global Commission on the Future of Work acknowledges States’ opportunities to shape the transition of the world of work to the better, including the extension of social protection. With regard to working conditions like fluctuating employment status or geographic mobility, which also characterize AES work, it declares the ‘need to evolve to deliver continued […]

Social Protection and Human Rights