Uncertain income and lack of occupational health services undermine the wellbeing of artists – the experiences of young artists are alarming

News   27.3.2023  

According to the latest Arts and Culture Barometer, artists experience strongly the meaningfulness of their work, but numerous factors related to uncertainty are undermining their occupational wellbeing. The majority of respondents under the age of 35 were concerned about their ability to cope. The findings of the barometer will be presented at a discussion forum at Teatteri Toivo in Helsinki on 30 March 2023.

A record number of artists, 1319, responded to the barometer survey in autumn 2022. The Arts and Culture Barometer is conducted annually by the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike) together with the Foundation for Cultural Policy Research (Cupore) with the purpose of monitoring the views of artists regarding current issues. The theme of the 2022 barometer was the occupational wellbeing of artists, which has been studied relatively little in Finland in previous years.

Almost all of the artists who responded to the barometer survey felt that they were doing meaningful work and that their art had something to give also to others. However, the occupational wellbeing of artists was undermined by the uncertainty and lack of income, competition over grants, the burden of applying for grants, and unpaid work.

The resulting stress is manifested in artists’ concern about their ability to cope. Over half of artists are concerned about their ability to cope mentally. Among artists under the age of 35, the majority felt concerned about their ability to cope mentally always or quite often.  

“I don’t know how many people in other jobs could handle the constant rejection and abandonment. […] It is also stressful that, in order to do your own work, you first have to win a competition or grant lottery,” wrote one visual artist under the age of 35.

The occupational wellbeing of artists is also undermined by a lack of occupational health services. The majority of artists continue to work even when they are sick, and three out of four respondents were worried that taking sick leave would affect their income and work opportunities. Access to occupational health services through their work as artists is rare.

Occupational wellbeing is vital in the arts sector

Occupational wellbeing is an important issue for professional artists. Without it, the arts sector cannot thrive. Among all of the artists who responded to the barometer survey, 40 percent had considered leaving the arts profession or already changed professions during the past year. This was particularly prevalent among young artists and artists in the performing arts. 

However, solutions also emerged from the barometer. In addition to stable income and social security, the ability to influence the goals, contents and schedules of their own work is an important factor that supports the occupational wellbeing of artists. A sense of community is also important: artists wished for more interactions and sharing with other artists, as well as for more feedback about their work. 

The need for supporting the occupational wellbeing of artists and supporting their professional development has been identified. For example, Taike has launched a development programme for the working conditions of artists that is seeking solutions to these challenges and putting them into practice.

Welcome to the discussion forum

The findings of the Arts and Culture Barometer will be presented at a discussion forum at Teatteri Toivo in Helsinki on 30 March 2023. See the Taike website for the programme and to register for the forum. Please register for the live event by 27 March and for the online event by 30 March.

Ruusuvirta, Minna, Lahtinen, Emmi, Rensujeff, Kaija & Leppänen, Aino (2023). Taiteen ja kulttuurin barometri 2022. Taiteilijoiden työhyvinvointi. Cuporen verkkojulkaisuja 72. Kulttuuripolitiikan tutkimuskeskus Cupore.

Further information:

Minna Ruusuvirta, Senior Researcher, Foundation for Cultural Policy Research (Cupore), minna.ruusuvirta@cupore.fi, t. +358 50 326 8014

Graphics: Tiina Paju