South African Cultural Observatory

Unpacking The Disparity Between Employment Levels And Contribution To GDP Within The Craft Sector

BY 02.04.20

The Visual Arts and Craft are recognised in many countries as having the potential to create employment and contribute to GDP. The 2018 SA Cultural Observatory mapping study showed that the Visual Arts and Crafts Domain accounts for 53% of industry jobs, but only accounted for 8% of the sector’s contribution to GDP. The aim of this study was to use national-level data to unpack the workings of the Visual Arts and Crafts (VAC) domain, and particularly the crafts sector, from different angles to gain a better understanding of its potential for development and the constraints that might confront the sector.

The results show that the VAC domain does provide opportunities for the employment of women and youth, but it is male dominated in comparison to other domains. Earnings in the VAC domain are generally lower than in other CCI domains, especially for women, which supports other studies that claim that the sector is more of a “survivalist” livelihoods industry. The VAC seems to provide other non-market (social and independence) benefits, especially for rural women with lower levels of education, and few employment alternatives and opportunities.

More than 38% of workers in the VAC domain are freelancers (own account workers with no employees). The vast majority making this number are women. Younger workers tend to have formal entities through which they produce their products. As found in previous studies, provinces with larger metropolitan areas (Gauteng, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal) have a larger share of workers in the VAC domain. However, there is also some potential in more rural provinces if links to markets and tourists can be made.

The VAC domain also contributes significantly to transformation objectives: 82.4% of people in VAC occupations are black Africans, 10.9% coloured, 1.2% Asian/Indian, and 5.6% white. Firm-level analysis also showed that they scored well on other transformation goals, such as having a black African, coloured or Asian/Indian owner (63%), at least one female owner (58%) and at least one youth owner (27%).

Findings confirm the generally low levels of formal education amongst VAC workers: 46.5% had not completed secondary school, and less than 10% had any form of tertiary education (compared to 23.9% of those in other cultural occupations).

The VAC domain appears in a number of government policies, strategies and plans, and identifies many of the challenges found in this research and possible interventions. However, the new Revised White Paper on Arts and Culture (2018) only has a very small section on the sector and little in the way of sector-specific policies.

To take advantage of the opportunities related to tourism and the growth in VAC domain exports, a coherent and well-implemented strategic approach for the sector is needed that would focus on empowering the mostly micro-enterprises in the sector to move up the value chain.

Read more: www.southafricanculturalobservatory.org.za/download/474

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