The fast-paced change in the South African political and economic landscape – including the cabinet reshuffle and subsequent downgrading of South Africa’s sovereign credit rating to junk status – have left many questioning the economic future of the country.
As a result now more than ever, the public and private sectors need to examine new and innovative ways to support and facilitate economic growth and employment in the country.
The often underestimated ‘Creative and Cultural Industries’ (CCIs) may offer a route to just that job creation – and the perfect platform for innovative forms of economic growth. This is according to the South African Cultural Observatory’s (SACO) Cultural Employment Report, presented at the SACO National Conference (24 & 25 May), which shows that the CCIs could grow faster than non-cultural sectors of the economy.
Globally, a recent CCI mapping study by EY found that 29.5 million people are employed in the CCIs worldwide, accounting for 1% of the world‘s active labour force and 3% of global GDP.
To gain insight into the economic potential of the CCIs in South Africa, the Cultural Observatory – the Department of Arts and Culture’s (DAC) cultural statistics research arm – recently conducted a study to examine the current state of cultural employment in the country.
Using international trends and UNESCO’s Framework for Cultural Statistics as a guideline, we established a framework from which to analyse existing data on the cultural economy.
We defined cultural occupations to include people employed as traditional cultural workers, such as writers, sculptors, and performing artists, as well as those employed in the more commercial creative industries, including, fashion, architecture, and graphic design.
The study, which used Statistics South Africa’s (StatsSA) Labour Force Dynamics Survey which provides annual data from 2008 to 2014, found that the cultural and creative industries account for 2,93 % of employment in South Africa.
This equates to 443 778 jobs, slightly more mining, which makes up 2.83% of employment in the country.
In addition to pinpointing current cultural employment statistics, the study found that employment in 2014 grew at a faster rate in the CCIs than in non-cultural sectors of the economy. This, we believe, has significant strategic implications for the future of South Africa’s economy and related employment opportunities.
The Stats SA’s data set was also used to determine who the people occupying these creative roles are and how their employment experiences compare to employment in non-cultural sectors.
In terms of demographics, those employed in cultural jobs in 2014 were mostly black Africans (69.9%), Coloured (11.9%), Indian/Asian (2.2%) or white (19%), compared to non-cultural jobs, which were 88.6% black African, coloured and Indian/Asian and 11.4% white. However, the CCI job demographics were much more diverse in some domains than in others.
Slightly more men are employed in cultural occupations (51.7%) than women, and nearly 40% of these men are under the age of 35. In comparison, the majority of women working in cultural and creative industries are between 35 and 49 years of age.
The study found that those working in South Africa’s cultural occupations tend to be better educated or skilled than those working in non-cultural sectors. This means that earnings in the CCIs are also considerably higher than in non-cultural occupations – despite the fact that informal, freelance based employment accounts for more jobs than formal employment in this sector.
These higher incomes point towards the growing potential of this sector to boost economic growth.
The report also shows that, similarly to international contexts, creative workers in South Africa tend to cluster or group together in provinces that have larger cities.
As a result, the Western Cape and Gauteng – the county’s two wealthiest provinces – currently have the highest proportion of people employed in the cultural sector.
In short, the Cultural Employment Report indicates that cultural jobs make up a bigger proportion of jobs in the South African economy than one might have initially expected.
This is especially interesting as jobs in primary industries such as mining decline, the services sector and tertiary industry jobs – which include many cultural jobs – are going to become essential contributors to job creation in the country.
The challenge however is the volatility of cultural jobs.
Cultural occupations can be unpredictable, and have a tendency to be sensitive to economic downturns. They also have a propensity to attract short-term contracts and long working hours – making them a stressful employment option.
If the recent credit rating downgrade leads to slower economic growth in the long term, it will no doubt affect all job creation possibilities, including those of the CCIs.
However, it is important to note that, as South African and international research has shown, people working in the CCIs are good at having multiple jobs, and can adapt in tough times by diversifying their income streams – making them resilient and resourceful in times of economic strain – something we all need to learn as times get tougher.
Also, if suggestions in the proposed Revised White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage, such as expanded economic rights and short-term unemployment insurance for cultural workers, are seriously considered, more people might be encouraged to consider the CCIs as a career option, leading to sector-wide – and arguably – national growth and employment.