Cultural organizations in Estonia sent an open letter to the government on Wednesday calling for an increase in salaries and operating grants.
In the public letter, representatives of Estonia's top cultural organizations point out, that while the average gross wage in Estonia for the second quarter of 2022 was €1,693, the figure for those in the cultural sphere was just €1,302. " Subsidies in the cultural sector have, for a long time, lagged behind the growing operational costs. The lack of resources is also having a knock-on effect on our existing partners, whose services we have no choice but to relinquish," the letter stressed.
Culture is the engine of Estonia's economy and society, contributing to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) to the same extent as other sectors, the letter says.
"We consider it imperative to raise the salaries and operating subsidies for the cultural sector in the upcoming budget negotiations. We are ready for a discussion with the government, and to justify the needs of the cultural sector. After all, the current coalition agreement underlines that, in times of crisis, special attention must be paid to the sustainability and accessibility of Estonian culture," the letter explained.
The appeal was signed by more than 30 of Estonia's top cultural institutions, including the Arvo Pärt Center, the Estonian Film Institute, the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center, Eesti Kontsert, the Estonian Choral Society, the Art Museum of Estonia, the Estonian National Museum (ERM), the Tallinn Music Week and Station Narva festivals, the Tallinn Dark Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) and the Vanemuine Theater.
The full text of the letter is reproduced below:
"There is not one person, who is not touched by culture. The number of visitors to (Estonian) museums in 2021 alone, was 1.7 million - more than the entire population of Estonia.
As representatives of the cultural sector, we are employers in the organizations entrusted to us, as well as partners to numerous creative professionals and small businesses. Regrettably, today's wage pressures outstrip the desire (of many) to remain in the (cultural) industry, making it increasingly difficult to motivate highly skilled experts, with many years of training, to remain in the cultural sector. According to Statistics Estonia, the average gross monthly wage in the second quarter of 2022 was €1,693, compared to €1,302 in the cultural sector.
Subsidies in the cultural sector have, for a long time, lagged behind the growing operational costs. The lack of resources is also having a knock-on effect on our existing partners, whose services we have no choice but to relinquish. Cultural organizations, both large and small, are active and important custodians of our communities and promoters of regional ways of life, as cultural institutions and events involve hundreds and thousands of service providers from across Estonia.
Culture is the engine of our economy and society. The creative economy contributes to (Estonia's) GDP on a par with other sectors. The contribution made (by culture) is of the same order of magnitude as, for example, the construction sector, and significantly higher than that of the energy or agricultural sectors. Yet, at the same time, the cultural sector is almost five times larger than the amount of money being channeled into it through the Ministry of Culture.
The cultural sector preserves, maintains and interprets our common values, and makes them accessible to the public, skillfully connecting the past with the future. It is also the country's most important partner in fostering cohesion and integration. According to President Alar Karis, culture is the only value, on which we as a people, can fully rely. "Estonian culture, music and theater came long before our statehood. Or more precisely, it was culture that started it all. If we think about today, Estonian culture is the only thing we have. The only thing that cannot be sold or exchanged," said President Karis.
We consider it essential to raise the salaries and operating subsidies of the cultural sector in the upcoming budget negotiations. We are ready for a discussion with the government, and to justify the needs of the cultural sector. After all, the current coalition agreement underlines that in times of crisis, special attention must be paid to the sustainability and accessibility of Estonian culture."
The letter was signed by the following institutions: The Arvo Pärt Center, The Estonian Ballet Association, The Estonian Association of Performing Arts Institutions, The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, The Estonian Film Institute, The Estonian Film Industry Cluster, The Estonian Composers' Union, The Estonian Interpreter's Union, The Estonian Jazz Union, The Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center, The Estonian Cinema Association, Eesti Kontsert, The Estonian Choral Society, Art Museum of Estonia (KUMU), The Estonian Association of Art Historians and Curators Estonian Artists' Union, The Estonian Maritime Museum, The Estonian Music Council, The Estonian Centre for Traditional Music, The Estonian National Museum (ERM), The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, The Estonian Dance Agency, The Estonian Dance Art and Dance Education Association, The Estonian Theater Union, The Jazzkaar Festival, Forum Cinemas, The Ida-Viru Creative Cluster, Artis Cinemas, The Union of Art Institutions, Music Estonia and The Live Music Estonia Museum Council, Pärnu Music Festival, The Estonian National Opera, The Tallinn Music Week and Station Narva festivals, Tallinn Dark Nights Film Festival (PÖFF), The Tartu Artists' Union, The Vanemuine Theater, VLG Films OÜ and Von Krahl Theater.
Editor: Michael Cole