Work in culture devastated by Covid. Here is the data released by Mi Riconosci


A bleak and dramatic picture is the one that Mi Recognize took a picture of cultural work during the pandemic: many lost their jobs and most workers felt that benefits were insufficient. Here is the damage the pandemic has done to cultural work.

Covid-19 has devastated work in cultural heritage. These are alarming figures released by the association Do You Recognize Me? I’ m a Cultural Heritage Professional, which conducted a survey of a sample of 1,798 cultural workers in March 2021 to understand how work in the sector has changed during the pandemic. And what emerges, according to the association, is a sharp and dramatic picture: in fact, there is a large percentage of workers in the sector who are not receiving subsidies (despite the fact that in May Culture Minister Dario Franceschini promised that no one would be left behind), others to whom insufficient support often arrives, many realities that fear they will close. And again, both training and job search have been hampered by pandemic management.

“Faced with these data, shocking not in their substance but in the proportions of frustration and despair that emerge,” they explain from Mi Riconosci, “the rhetoric of subsidies and aid is not enough, and not only because these have not reached thousands of people for a year, but because the sector needs a serious perspective.” The association’s activists let it be known at the press conference presenting the data that Mi Riconosci will ensure that the data will enter the public debate: “the idea is to give these numbers the widest possible resonance, to tell the daily stories of women and men workers in the sector who have been silenced for too many years. We will also try to interact with parliamentarians and more generally to bring the data into the political debate: we will then organize many other moments, we will see if we can elaborate a more detailed dossier, and we hope to be able to return, later on, to press conferences and moments of in-person discussion.”

Data on work in culture during Covid-19

The survey was conducted with a questionnaire submitted to workers: 1,798 responses were received, as mentioned above. 9.3% of respondents were between 19 and 24 years old, 30.6% between 25 and 30, 21.7% 31 to 35, 13% 36 to 40, 8.9% 41 to 45, 5.5% 46 to 50, 5.2% 51 to 55, 3.7% 56 to 60, and 2.1% 61 to 65. Of the respondents, more than 70% already had a job before the pandemic (the remaining 30% consisted of those who are looking for a job or those who are studying): of the latter, however, only 30.7% kept the job they had before the pandemic exactly as before. In fact, 19.8% kept it partially, 23.1% intermittently, and 26.5% lost it.

Of those who worked, 32.5% did so partly in attendance, partly with subsidies; 30.2% partly in attendance, partly in smartworking; 17.2% in attendance; 8.7% did not work and received subsidies, 6.6% worked only in smartworking, and 4.7% partly in smartworking and partly with subsidies. Interestingly, more than half of those who worked in smartworking worked more than they should have: in fact, 56.2% said they felt the compensation did not correspond to the hours they worked (23.7% worked in smartworking because of the compensation they received, and there is also 20.1% who admit they worked less). It must be said, however, that 42.3% are hopeful and believe that after Covid there will be a return to their full work activities: however, there are also 29.7% who believe they will return to their previous activities, but with a reduction in their hours, 11.4% who expect their employment to end, and 16.6% who fear they will lose their employment when there is a release of layoffs. The less than rosy situation is also reflected in the fact that, for 35.7 percent of respondents, their work in cultural heritage is not enough to live on, while for 31.1 percent it is barely enough.

On the issue of the benefits received by those who have kept their jobs, only 4.1% were satisfied at level 10 on a scale ranging from 0 to 10. The vast majority (67.2%) felt that benefits were insufficient (with 20.2% voting zero and 13.9% voting 5). Those who lost their jobs in 47.2% of cases did not receive benefits (supports instead for 24.5% of those who found themselves unemployed). 17.7 percent found work in another sector, while 4.6 percent found work in the same sector but on worse terms (fortunately there is also a 6 percent who found work in the cultural sector, and on better terms). Dissatisfaction with benefits is growing among those who have lost their jobs: in fact, 79.5 percent consider them insufficient (and 38.7 percent vote zero on a satisfaction scale of 0 to 10). The survey also covered job seekers (with 79.4 percent having at least a college degree): of these, 40.4 percent looked for work but did not find it, 33.6 percent did not even look for it, 12.2 percent found it in another sector, and only 13.8 percent found work in the cultural sector. As for those who have found work, in 69.5 percent of cases it is insufficient employment for a living (it is sufficient in only 7.4 percent of cases).

Finally, there is cautious optimism about the recovery: 37% see possibilities for a future for cultural heritage but only with a structural reform of the sector, while for 41.9% there is a gloomy future (we will continue to survive with difficulty). Only 0.9% believe we are on the right track, while 20.3% see no prospects.

The stories of female workers

Mi Riconosci also collected some stories of female and male heritage professionals. A worker from an outsourced service concessionaire in a museum recounted that he has been on extension for decades: “the company did not anticipate the layoff, and when it was possible we have been working very few hours a month for a year, with no meal vouchers, no surcharges for Sundays and holidays, and the layoff supplement is taxed and insufficient to support a family, what’s more, the paltry checks from the Social Security Institute always arrive at least three or four months late.” The person claimsinternalization in the ministerial ranks.

And again, a tour guide from Turin reports that she has lost 80 percent of her job, not knowing how much she will be able to resume at full capacity; “Fortunately,” she says, “I work with a cooperative that has catered mainly to the local public, so when it is possible to carry them out, I am able to give some guided tours in attendance. Obviously schools not even talking about it as well as almost impossible to visit museums with groups, because of both the restrictions of numbers and the way of access (often advance payment is required, but if you work on attempted sales it is impractical such a system, or booking costs too high for small groups).”

Instead, here is what one museum educator who works on a VAT basis reports: “I work in a provincial town, so with small and medium-sized museums. Being freelance I try to supplement with other activities, always related to the world of culture and education, but the results are very poor. With the pandemic, I have found myself unable to do museum education since July 2020, without receiving any reimbursement for activities that were already scheduled but then canceled due to the closure. Even with the various yellow and orange zones, and then with museums open to the public, activities never resumed because of the risk of having to cancel events. I also foresee for a 2021 a huge reduction in the possibility of work.”

Finally, the tale of the director of a small museum: “I received 2 times 600 euros as a VAT number as Director of small museum opening part time and financed with municipal budget, while in my integrative work related to tourism I had losses of about 70%. The agreement with the museum has now expired and the museum is closed, I think the municipality has no funds to reopen it. There is only hope that tourism will restart in this 2022.”

Work in culture devastated by Covid. Here is the data released by Mi Riconosci
Work in culture devastated by Covid. Here is the data released by Mi Riconosci


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