UPDATE ON THE PROPOSED RESOURCES FOR ARTS FREELANCERS
1 Singapore’s arts and culture scene is supported by a diverse manpower base, where freelancers contribute in multiple capacities. With the growing gig economy, it has become increasingly important to understand the needs of freelancers, and to ensure that that they are adequately resourced in the long term so that they can sustain their careers in the arts.
2 With this in mind, NAC began consulting the arts community on the proposed resources for arts freelancers from September 2017 with 2 engagement sessions involving arts freelancers and representatives from arts institutions hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth’s (MCCY) Senior Parliamentary Secretary (SPS) Mr Baey Yam Keng. These sessions were aimed at understanding the broad needs of freelancers working in the arts and culture sector, both from the perspectives of freelancers and the arts institutions which were the main hirers.
3 The main points of discussion during these sessions were centred around employment and career sustainability. These themes also formed the basis of discussion in subsequent engagement sessions. The main points of discussion include:
(i) importance of long-term financial planning and knowledge of legal rights to enhance sustainability in freelancers’ careers;
(ii) need to raise awareness on opportunities in the arts;
(iii) need for industry to establish best practices for arts freelancers; and
(iv) desire for consolidated shared services and resources, applicable across arts sectors (e.g. legal support, tax information) on an information portal.
4 Following these discussions in 2017, NAC and NHB became early adopters of MOM’s Tripartite Standard for Contracting Self-Employed Persons, which aims to foster fair and progressive employment conditions for freelancers. Arts groups and institutions within the wider culture sector were also encouraged to implement the measures under the Tripartite Standards.
5 With the 2017 feedback in mind, NAC also commenced exploring partnerships which could offer arts freelancers better access to information and resources in topics such as career development, finance, individual rights and responsibilities, training and networks. Following these explorations, NAC wanted to ensure that there was a deep understanding of the needs of arts freelancers and commenced a series of engagement sessions in the second half of 2018, facilitated by Mr Tay Tong. The intent was to have deeper consultations with arts professionals from different art forms, occupations and in different stages of their careers, to conceptualise and scope the resources and services that can be offered. This series of engagement sessions was kicked off by two sessions hosted by SPS, Mr Baey Yam Keng and NAC’s CEO Mrs Rosa Daniel in July and August 2018 respectively. Attendees were updated on NAC’s plans to develop an initiative, with the objective of improving the sustainability and employability of arts freelancers.
KEY FINDINGS FROM 2018 ENGAGEMENT SESSIONS
6 Over the course of 24 engagement sessions between August to November 2018, NAC reached out to over 370 individuals from the arts community across disciplines and practices to understand the needs and concerns of arts freelancers. The views and feedback collected were important in helping us to identify the key focus areas for the initiative, and have shaped how the initiative will develop moving forward.
7 Throughout all the engagement sessions, attendees suggested that the initiative should be an enabler for arts freelancers, delivering useful resources, programmes and services to equip the arts freelancer for independent work. This would in turn grow their self-reliance and professionalism, boosting their confidence to develop meaningful careers in the arts.
8 The 2018 engagement sessions with the arts community raised numerous areas of needs, including the following recurring threads:
(i) A strong need for consolidated resources and information specific to arts freelancers
9 Across the art forms and disciplines, the arts community expressed their hopes for a consolidated repository of resources and information in areas crucial to the development and long-term sustainability of arts freelancers’ careers. The areas highlighted ranged from information in legal knowledge, financial planning, training and development opportunities, to obtaining “know-how” for regional/ global opportunities, industry ‘Best Practices’ for both employers and freelancers, and mental wellness programmes and support. Additionally, the arts community highlighted that arts freelancers were important “resources” themselves, and would like to share their experiences and provide guidance to one another.
(ii) Importance of an online digital platform specific to the arts community
10 As information and online resources relevant to arts freelancers are scattered, attendees were keen to have an online platform, consolidating such information and resources, which would be accessed easily and would serve as a first stop for them. The ideal platform would include a jobs portal and other useful resources, including samples of legal documents, and critical information ranging from intellectual property rights to CPF contributions.
(iii) A desire for an organic space to share ideas, solutions, and to network with one another
11 During the engagement sessions, many arts freelancers envisioned a space similar to the former S11 which was sited at the old National Library along Armenian Street, and often referred to the gatherings that occurred in the space. Attendees highlighted the importance of a cosy gathering spot to huddle with like-minded peers from the arts community, where there would be companionship and sharing of ideas to alleviate the isolation experienced by arts freelancers as many worked in silos. Further suggestions for the physical space included having basic office services (e.g. printing and photocopying services), hot-desking and meeting room facilities, and affordable food and beverage options nearby to facilitate interactions between arts freelancers.
12 More details of the feedback that we received can be found in Annex A.
FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF RESOURCES FOR ARTS FREELANCERS
13 The key objective of the initiative is for arts freelancers to be adequately resourced and self-reliant in the long-term, so that they can sustain their careers and contributions in the arts. NAC has committed to supporting this initiative in its pilot phase for the first 3 years to ensure that arts freelancers have access to the resources to navigate the gig economy, and to improve their working conditions. This effort is also one of the priorities articulated in NAC’s Our SG Arts Plan 2018 – 2022.
14 The initiative will focus on critical needs which will cut across art forms and occupations in its pilot phase. Examples of the focus areas include:
- insurance coverage and financial planning
- jobs and other opportunities
- legal support and services
- training and development
- useful resources, such as crisis helplines and wellness support
NAC will launch a dedicated website for arts freelancers in the second half of 2019, and has also begun developing physical hubs for freelancers’ use. NAC will also work with partners to offer shared resources and services, with more to be introduced progressively.
15 Regular review and refinement will be essential in enhancing the initiative’s effectiveness in supporting the needs of arts freelancers, and NAC hopes to receive feedback and suggestions from the arts community to assist it in its assessment on how the initiative can be continuously improved.