Work for free?

Editorial Articles Aug 01, 2014 1 Comment

I am a happy Master graduate in Digital cultural interpretation and Public Engagement… since June 2011! Since? Nothing! Well no, I had the great fortune to find a short term contract as communication assistant in a local structure. No other paid job. Yes, of course, if I offered my capacities for free, I would have found jobs (and actually I do) and as many students, I accepted many jobs for free or near (called “training”). And effectively, French and British job boards are full of offers for voluntaries and apprentices. It is quite unbelievable to see how structures can need so many free (or nearly) workers but so few properly paid professionals!

Of course, it’s always the same reasons given: too many candidates (it’s true that 200 persons for only one job it’s quite a lot; and promise, I don’t exaggerate!), less and less engagement from governments (and, unfortunately, not only the French one), managing a cultural structure costs a lot of money,… And it’s true, with no doubt, that the cultural world is more and more a competitive world, that a cultural institution needs several talents, so professionals, that governments find less important to invest in culture (except if it is glam or use the “wow-effect” and give a disney-like image to the country) but is it a reason to prefer to spend less money on professional workers wages (internal or external to the structure) than on other expenditure items?
My problem to find a job and/or with a proper pay is not only mine: we want so much to find a job that we are near ready to be slaves and accept unbelievable circumstances to work in Culture! Is it normal to not recognise the know-how of a master-graduate or postgraduate and/or an experimented professional? Of course, I talk about professionals in cultural fields but it is unfortunately true for many other jobs.
The real point that appears here is what is the value that we are giving to work? If we consider that work deserves salary, why so many underpaid job offers? If, in contrary, knowledge is considered as valueless, why so many structures still need workers?! We cannot stay with this financial excuse. Many of my generation think, create, suggest and invent new solutions, among them about the work value. I really think that we are on the boundary of two worlds which are fighting to the victory. The first, our current world, was shaped on high ideas and principles but can no longer afford its claims and turns in tyrannical and alienate oppression. The second one is deeply new and has quite everything to re-invent and suggest. But in any solution, the question of the work value has to be in the core of this battle because it’s not only a question of a financial resource: many workers do their job because they love what they do; it’s a question of human consideration, knowledge and how we live in a society. We do not possess the world, we are borrowing it from our children; it is true for Culture too… as could write Saint-Exupéry.

Helene Herniou

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