Actors accumulate unemployment when they are not filming

actor : No new regulation for the cultural sector regarding unemployment benefits

Heinrich Schafmeister makes no secret of his disappointment. "It's grueling that the grand coalition has repeatedly promised a regulation for our industry, but it never comes," says the actor. Despite contributions being paid, many cultural workers in Germany are not covered by unemployment insurance. When their short-term contracts end, they are usually not entitled to unemployment benefit I. "We pay into unemployment insurance, often the maximum contribution, but have no chance of getting anything out," says Schafmeister, who is on the board of the Federal Drama Association. "Many feel that this is unfair."

The problem should be resolved in the last term

Actually, the Union and the SPD wanted to tackle the problem in the last electoral term - and promised a regulation that "takes sufficient account of the peculiarities of employment histories in culture". A few sentences can also be found in the current coalition agreement. But if the cabinet decides on easier access to unemployment benefit I this Wednesday, this will once again pass by in the everyday work of many actors, cameramen and sound engineers.

The draft law provides that the so-called framework periods in unemployment insurance are to be extended. Previously, employees had to have worked for at least one year of social security contributions within two years in order to acquire entitlements. In the future, they will have two and a half years to do this. But for many people who work in the cultural sector, this is hardly possible either. According to the Federal Acting Association, film team people and actors with their engagements have an average of two and a half to four months qualifying period per year.

Actors regularly end up unemployed

Even the most sought-after filmmakers get "recurring inevitable unemployment", wrote the lawyer Steffen Schmidt-Hug in a statement for the working committee in the Bundestag in the last electoral term. This is also due to the fact that employees not only have to be available for film productions during the planned shooting date, but also several weeks before and after, in the event of postponements.

Also from the special rule for short-term employees introduced in 2009, which is now to be extended until the end of 2022, culture professionals hardly benefit. According to this, unemployment benefits are granted if someone has been employed subject to social security contributions for at least six months in the past two years. But the benefit is only paid if the contracts did not last longer than ten weeks and annual earnings of around 36,000 in the west and 32,000 in the east are not exceeded. The professional associations criticize that this can hardly be achieved under the working conditions in the industry. “If you play a play in the theater, that's usually more than ten weeks,” says Schafmeister. He also considers the upper earnings limit to be inadequate. “Actors are always looking for work. We have to travel around, pay an agency, it costs a lot of money, ”he says.

The risk of old-age poverty is increasing

Figures from the Federal Employment Agency (BA) also show that hardly anyone benefits from the special rule. Every year only around 250 applicants meet the requirements for unemployment benefit I. There are significantly more short-term employees in the cultural sector: According to the Federal Drama Association, filming involves around 30,000 employees - and a further 15,000 at the theater. The consequence of the lack of coverage is that the proportion of self-employed in film production has risen sharply, most recently to around 50 percent. "That drives people into bogus self-employment," says Schafmeister. In addition, short contracts and without receiving unemployment benefit I result in incomplete pension insurance histories - with the risk of old-age poverty.

The offending part of the whole affair is “ignorance”, complains Schafmeister. The long-promised better protection of the creative industry should not be particularly expensive. The now planned extension of the framework period will also cost the BA budget up to 180 million euros, according to estimates.

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