Growth po­ten­tial through cul­ture and cre­ativ­ity

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - JEN SNOW­BALL

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.

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 Cul­tural Em­ploy­ment Re­port, pre­sented at the Saco na­tional con­fer­ence in May, which shows that the CCIs could grow faster than non-cul­tural sec­tors of the econ­omy.

Glob­ally, a re­cent CCI map­ping study found that 29.5 mil­lion peo­ple were 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 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 found that the cul­tural and cre­ative in­dus­tries ac­counted for 2.93% of em­ploy­ment in South Africa. This equates to 443 778 jobs, slightly more than min­ing, which makes up 2.83% of em­ploy­ment.

The study found that em­ploy­ment in 2014 grew at a faster rate in the CCIs than in non-cul­tural sec­tors. This has sig­nif­i­cant strate­gic im­pli­ca­tions for the fu­ture of South Africa’s econ­omy and re­lated em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

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. Slightly more men are em­ployed in cul­tural oc­cu­pa­tions (51.7%) than women, and nearly 40% of these men are un­der the age of 35. By com­par­i­son, the ma­jor­ity of women work­ing in cul­tural and cre­ative in­dus­tries are be­tween 35 and 49.

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 coun­try’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.

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 short­term con­tracts and long work­ing hours – mak­ing them a stress­ful em­ploy­ment op­tion.

• Pro­fes­sor Jen Snow­ball is South African Cul­tural Ob­ser­va­tory (Saco) chief re­search strate­gist

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