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Extend aid for arts workers to tide them through Covid-19 crisis, urges MP Carrie Tan

SINGAPORE — An already struggling arts industry, further battered by Covid-19 pressures, might be decimated if further support is not extended to arts workers, Member of Parliament (MP) Carrie Tan said on Tuesday (Oct 6).

MP Carrie Tan said the arts sector could be wiped out if more support is not provided to those working in the industry.

MP Carrie Tan said the arts sector could be wiped out if more support is not provided to those working in the industry.

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  • Ms Tan suggested several ways to help arts workers through Covid-19 and boost sector over longer term
  • Artists today are struggling and the industry is at risk of being wiped out, she said
  • In response, Ms Low Yen Ling said several grants are available and that the authorities have “wholehearted” commitment to help arts workers

 

SINGAPORE — An already struggling arts industry, further battered by Covid-19 pressures, might be decimated if further support is not extended to arts workers, Member of Parliament (MP) Carrie Tan said on Tuesday (Oct 6).

In an adjournment motion in Parliament, the MP for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency proposed four ways the Government could better help arts workers through the Covid-19 crisis and boost the sector over the longer term.

  • Increase and extend Covid-19 financial aid for arts workers, including those who do not benefit from the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) and the Self-employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs)

  • Broaden the eligibility criteria for the Digitalisation Fund beyond General-rated productions

  • Develop wage framework guidelines for the arts sector to prevent a race to the bottom to get jobs

  • Invest in capacity-building of the arts and entertainment sector through overseas exchanges, scholarships as well as business and marketing training

Where the arts was once seen as a viable and important part of city-planning and development for Singapore, with plans to make the city-state a “global city for the arts”, artists today are struggling and many are living hand-to-mouth, Ms Tan said.

Made worse by Covid-19 restrictions, the lack of stable income is forcing workers in the arts and entertainment industry — which generated S$6.6 billion in revenue in 2017 — to seek other jobs, she added.

“An entire sector may be at risk of being wiped out,” she said. “I was disappointed that in yesterday's Ministerial Statement by Deputy Prime Minister (Heng Swee Keat), there was no mention of any extension of support to the arts sector workers.”

She attributed the longstanding income pressures on arts workers to a lack of regulations on a group of freelancers known as “permanent casuals” who often work exclusively for a single company but are paid hourly with no health or leave benefits.

Making up close to half of the arts and entertainment freelancers, these workers were not eligible for either the JSS and Sirs financial support.

Ms Tan then highlighted the diversity of jobs in the arts and entertainment sector, which covers not just the actors and musicians but also lighting and sound technicians, museum operators and fashion designers.

“Singapore is not just a nation of engineers, scientists, technologists and doctors,” she said. “A truly inclusive economy and future is one that allows all diverse talents to thrive.”

Ms Tan cited data claiming that funding for the sector had almost halved from 2015 to 2018.

But Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Low Yen Ling clarified that funding had in fact risen from about S$300 million per year before 2013 to about S$450 million per year from 2016 to 2018.

This, she said, was based on the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth’s (MCCY) annual Singapore Cultural Statistics report.

Ms Low then sought to dispel Ms Tan’s assertion that arts workers were not getting sufficient government support, naming several grants available to them, including the broad-based Covid-19 Support Grant and the sector-specific Capability Development Scheme for the Arts.

The latter, for example, helps arts and culture organisations and practitioners upskill and has supported close to 600 training opportunities, of which 300 were for freelancers, she said.

MCCY had also announced a S$55 million Arts and Culture Resilience Package in April this year and has since created more than 6,000 work and training opportunities for arts and culture practitioners.

The ministry also announced on Aug 21 that an additional operating grant will be provided under this package, Ms Low said, adding that details will be announced soon.

In her closing remarks, Ms Low said: “I wish to assure Ms Carrie Tan and the House that MCCY and NAC (National Arts Council) are fully and wholeheartedly committed to ensuring good work opportunities for our practitioners and freelancers.”

Related topics

arts Support Grant Carrie Tan coronavirus Covid-19

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