Federculture: two years of pandemic has driven Italians away from culture

Presented this morning in Rome the 18th Federculture Annual Report on the state of culture after two years of Covid. A worrying picture, with an impressive drop in participation: only 9 out of 100 Italians have visited a museum. Double-digit declines everywhere, from cinema to concerts.

Presented this morning in Rome, in the presence of Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, was Federculture’s 18th Annual Report, which this year takes stock of the state of Italy’s culture after two pandemic years. Federculture in particular noted that the culture sector, in all its spheres, has been overwhelmed by the crisis: between 2019 and 2021 there has been what the association calls “a worrying departure on the part of Italians from cultural activities.” All sectors, in fact, record dramatic drops in participation: -81 percent for cinema, -85 percent for theater, -72 percent for museums, and -82 percent for concerts. If in 2019 at least one in two Italians over the age of 6 went to the theater at least once a year (48.5 percent), in 2021 the figure hit 9.1 percent, and the other sectors fared no better: theater went from 20.3 percent attendance to 2.9 percent, museums from 31.8 percent to 8.9 percent, classical music concerts from 9.9 percent to 2.2 percent, other concerts from 20.2 percent to 3.7 percent, and archaeological sites and monument complexes from 27.4 percent to 10.3 percent.

Covid and the measures put in place to curb the pandemic have had major impacts both in terms of economics, spending, and individual participation. Particularly in the live entertainment sectors, cinemas, theaters and concerts, the numbers (2019/2021) are alarming: -75% of spending on these entertainments, collapse of enjoyment with negative changes around 80%. And museums, exhibitions and the like do not fare much better: in this case, again in the 2019/2021 period, the drop in household spending is 26.6%; while from the point of view of fruition (residents who say they have enjoyed cultural activities over the 12-month period) in the area of visits to museums and exhibitions the change is -72%.

The situation is worrying if we also take into account the fact that, for Italians, culture was the area they were most willing to give up, along with vacations. In household spending, culture in fact marks -40.1% in 2021 compared to 2019: worse did only package vacations (-66.8%), and in the negative area are also recreational goods (-4.3%) and newspapers, books and stationery (-6.2%). On the other hand, spending increased on audiovisual, photographic and computer equipment (24.1 percent) and gardening and pet items (2.6 percent).

According to Federculture, it has been a cyclone that has hit the sector: only in recent months have there been timid signs of recovery, due in particular to the recovery of tourism, which, although still far from the pre-Covid levels of 2019, is returning to growth: in 2021, over 2020, + 41% arrivals and +39% presences; in the first quarter of 2022, both items tripled compared to the same months last year (over +200%). However, the numbers have not yet caught up with those of 2019: in 2021, foreigners recorded -61.4% arrivals and -53.2% presences compared to 2019 (although the increase in arrivals was 52% over 2020), and foreigners’ spending, although marking +23% over 2020, is still 52% behind 2019.

The overall picture is worrying, according to Federculture, but it is also necessary to look at the positive signs in the first months of this year that give hope for a substantial recovery. In 2022, some factors of a possible turnaround are in fact there: for example, the success of free Sundays in museums, which in just three days (May-June-July) brought back to state sites more than 400.000 thousand visitors, or the Turin Book Fair that had a record attendance in the 2022 edition with more than 168 thousand admissions, but also the figure of the Culture Bonus for 18-year-olds that, still in progress, counts 396,651 registrations worth 65.7 million euros that young people spend on books, concerts, music, cinema. In addition, the MiC budget increased considerably: it started from 4.6 billion euros in 2020, and the increase over the forecast was 14.5 percent in 2021 and 43.3 percent in 2022.

Onemployment, too, the impacts have been significant, and it is precisely to cultural work that the volume gives ample space, in which data, essays and analyses highlight new and pre-existing fragilities and criticalities of the current crisis. In the two years of the pandemic, cultural employment declined by 6.7 percent (three times as much as in total employment, where the negative change was 2.4 percent: 55,000 jobs were lost in culture), and in the most specialized fields the decline reaches as much as 11 percent, while among young people under 35 years of age a -12.6 percent was recorded. The decline was strongest among men (-7.7 percent versus -5.3 percent among women) and in the north (-9.4 percent versus -5.4 percent in the south). Additional problems insist on the particularly fragile sector, which Federculture investigated through a field survey: cultural work suffers from poor recognition, inhomogeneity and fragmentation, in contracts and protections, as well as endemic precariousness.

Although the sector has benefited from important support and investment measures for recovery, the culture business organization renews its appeal to parliament and government for concrete and structural interventions that can no longer be postponed: strong support for families’ cultural consumption through expense deduction measures; revision of VAT rates on cultural products; and extension of labor protections with the adoption of the Single Contract for Culture. Indeed, there are still many old and new knots to be tackled, and while we cannot fail to recognize the commitment of the Ministry of Culture and the government to support and revitalize the sector-powerful resources have been deployed to address the crisis: more than 4 billion euros in interventions and aid to cope with the emergency have been allocated from the early stages of the pandemic to the end of 2021; the NRP for Culture and Tourism puts in place 6.68 billion euros-from Federculture the urgency of intervening with concrete and courageous reforms, long overdue, is stressed.

“We are facing challenging years,” comments Federculture president Andrea Cancellato, “that call for answers and choices that are neither taken for granted, nor casual, nor superficial. The very crisis has put before our eyes the importance of culture in our society and in our lives. We cannot, nor should we, do without it. This is what we alluded to when we pointed to culture as Italy’s new welfare, as much as health care and prevention for all citizens. This is why drastic and incisive intervention is needed today for the revival of consumption and cultural participation of families, even with emergency interventions that can be started on a temporary basis such as tax deductions for admission tickets to exhibitions, concerts, cinemas, etc. Similarly, systemic interventions are needed on the VAT regime for cultural products and incentives for investment in the sector. We ask the Legislature and the government, particularly Minister Dario Franceschini, to continue on the path taken of considering culture and cultural enjoyment a goal for the country, for its renewal, and for its future.”

Pictured below: Visitors to the Borghese Gallery in 2020 on the day it reopened after the lockdown (photo Borghese Gallery)

Federculture: two years of pandemic has driven Italians away from culture
Federculture: two years of pandemic has driven Italians away from culture

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