Basic income pilot for artists to start in Ireland in early 2022; 2,000 creative workers to get €325 a week for 3 years

The Peacock Theatre, Dublin: The Basic Income for the Arts was a key initiative of Budget 2022, which allocated €25 million to the pilot.

‘Landmark move’ to involve €325 weekly payment without means testing

By Deirdre Falvey

Original article:

A new pilot of basic income for artists and arts workers is set to open for applications early in 2022, following a stakeholder forum hosted by Minister Catherine Martin on Wednesday.

Nearly 200 people from more than 50 organisations representing practising artists and creative arts workers attended the Basic Income for the Arts (BIA) forum to feed into policy underpinning the pilot.

A policy paper will be published in January, inviting written submissions. 

Ms Martin described it as “a once-in-a-generation policy intervention, a measure I believe will redraw the landscape for the arts for hopefully many years to come”.

The BIA was a key initiative of Budget 2022, which allocated €25 million to the pilot, described by Ms Martin as “a fundamental priority for me and my Department”.

It is expected that the three-year pilot for about 2,000 creative workers will launch in the first quarter of 2022, involve a weekly payment of €325, with no means test, and participants will be selected randomly.

Angela Dorgan, chairwoman of National Campaign for the Arts, which has long campaigned for a basic income scheme, said it was happy with the broad consensus at the forum that eligibility for basic income would be as wide as possible, notwithstanding the limited numbers involved in the pilot.

She was pleased it was also clear that it is planned as something sustainable and permanent, that will go beyond the pilot. “Basic income is a game-changer,” she said.

‘Landmark move’

At the forum the Minister said countries including France, Finland and Canada have basic income for artists, but “I believe what we are proposing to do in Ireland goes further, in that a basic income will be offered to artists and creative arts workers, not as a social protection support, but instead in recognition of the value of artistic practice allowing artists and creatives to focus on their practice and be compensated appropriately for it. This is an unprecedented measure, a landmark move to raise up and value the arts.”

Piloting basic income in the arts, culture, audio-visual and live performance sector was the top recommendation of Life Worth Living, the November 2020 report from the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce, established by the Minister in response to the pandemic.

Taskforce chairwoman Clare Duignan said at the forum that “survival, recovery and sustainability of this sector is dependent on economic policy and decision-making in the short and long term. This scheme has the potential to be genuinely transformative in terms of the sustainability of the sector.” 

Ms Martin added: “If we learned anything from the pandemic it is how much each and every person relies on and leaned into the arts during the lockdowns. The effective closure of all arts centres and galleries and theatres going dark for so long took a tremendous toll on artists, performers, arts workers and the audience.”

She said she was “determined to ensure that permanent damage is not done to the arts sector from the pandemic and that the basic income pilot scheme is in fact part of the response to ensure the arts in Ireland come back stronger than ever”.

The arts and events sector has been among the worst-hit by pandemic restrictions, but the basic income proposal predates Covid-19, as artistic and creative employment is characterised by low, precarious and often seasonal income.

A third of artists and creative practitioners earn less than the national minimum wage, according to review of pay and conditions by Theatre Forum in 2019, which found average weekly earnings in arts, entertainment, recreation and other services were two-thirds of all other sectors of the economy (€494.98 compared with €740.32).

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