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Culture in crisis: Arts fighting to survive COVID-19 impact

The film industry alone, could lose about 10 million jobs this year, according to UNESCO, while a third of world’s art galleries could cut their staffing by half or more, data collected by the agency shows. Similarly, what has been in effect a six-month closure of concerts and performance, could end up costing the music industry more than $10 billion in lost sponsorships, while the global publishing market could shrink by 7.5 per cent. 

“The sector, which accounts for 30 million jobs, is struggling to survive and needs our help,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said on Monday.  

Culture has helped us out of the crisis. Now we have to help culture and support the diversity to which culture owes its strength
 – UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay

“Culture has helped us out of the crisis. Now we have to help culture and support the diversity to which culture owes its strength”, she added. 

It is not only the sector itself that has been hit hard, people have also lost access to cultural events.  

Since COVID-19 hit, many concerts, art events and festivals have been taking place online. However almost one in two people globally cannot access them due to issues such as lack of internet connectivity, according to UNESCO estimates. 

Targeted policies  

In response, UNESCO has developed a resource to help governments and policy makers address the challenges artists and cultural professionals are facing during the pandemic. Culture in Crisis: A Policy Guide for a Resilient Creative Sector also offers advice on strengthening resilience of the creative industries in the future. 

The agency is also urging specific action to address the gender dimensions of COVID-19 impact on the culture sector, as women – who hold a higher proportion of precarious jobs in the sector – are particularly vulnerable to social and economic insecurity. 

The guide presents three key steps for governments to take: direct support to artists and cultural professionals; indirect support to cultural and creative industries; and strengthening the competitiveness of cultural and creative industries.  

Specific measures outlined in the policy guide include commissioning and purchase of works; providing compensation for loss of income; promoting programmes to develop new skills; providing temporary relief from regulations and tax incentives; promoting national content; stimulating demand; and making available preferential loans. 

The guide also includes best practice examples from numerous countries.  

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