The slow post-covid rise of cultural consumption and the emergence of the theme of cultural welfare

Regional Observatory of Culture. Note 1/2023 | By Sabrina Iommi

Regional Observatory of Culture. Note 1/2023 The slow post-covid rise of cultural consumption and the emergence of the theme of cultural welfare The publication of the final data for 2021 and the first aggregate estimates on a national scale for 2022 makes it possible to update the analysis of the impacts of the pandemic on the cultural sectors. Cultural activities are confirmed to be among the most affected by the health crisis, but also by the consequent contractions in income, and are also among the sectors most affected by important internal reorganization phenomena, due to the emergence of new technologies and new public tastes. Cinema is one of the most affected sectors in the first place, for which the duration of some restrictions connected to health precautions (mask obligation, ban on the administration of food and drink) coincided with the months traditionally associated with the highest takings. However, this is also the main area in which the new consumption methods have firmly established themselves, linked to the great success of the online platforms for offering films, TV series and other entertainment.
The sector of museums, monuments and archaeological areas is relatively less affected, which according to the very first data relating to 2023 seems to benefit from the recovery in tourist arrivals from abroad, at least for the benefit of the places best known for international demand.

Overall, however, at the end of 2022 neither the volume of consumption nor employment in the sector have yet managed to return to the level of 2019, even if the gap has gradually narrowed.

In the picture described, Tuscany, for which the latest available data stop at 2021, confirms the presence of difficulties especially on the demand side. In fact, it is consumption that is struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels. This also has consequences for employment. For example, in museums, there is a differentiated behavior between structures with a contraction of personnel and structures that are expanding. Furthermore, in cases of growth, in smaller structures the expansion takes place in terms of an increase in internal employees, perhaps aimed at ensuring a minimum operational base, while in larger ones it is mainly driven by the growth in the number of external collaborators.

Libraries generally recorded a decrease in employees, both internal and external, with a different distribution according to the size of the structures: the smaller ones have mainly lost external employees, the medium and large ones also internal employees. Finally, for entertainment, the operators active in 2021 were 70% of those in 2019, with a more intense contraction in the case of self-employed workers (INPS data). The last study is dedicated to the theme of cultural welfare, i.e. an offer of cultural activities expressly aimed at the objectives of individual well-being, inclusion and social cohesion. The data is obtained from the Istat surveys relating to 2021 on museums and libraries, which for the first time include questions on the subject, and from a direct survey carried out by Irpet on Tuscany for the Culture Commission of the Regional Council. The picture that emerges is complex. Looking at material services, there is a dichotomy between basic services (bathrooms for the disabled, overcoming architectural barriers), which are now widespread, and more innovative services (tactile tours, audio-video for people with disabilities, dedicated visits) which are still very rare . On the other hand, looking at dedicated projects, the most frequent recipients are people with disabilities and those in socio-economic hardship. Tuscany, as in general the Centre-North generally shows higher endowments and levels of activity, even if the traditional North-South gap in some cases, such as for the inclusion of people with economic hardship, is considerably weakened. Even by sector, rather diversified behaviors emerge. For example, if in the case of museums and similar structures, the larger ones located in urban areas usually have the best equipment and the highest levels of activity for inclusion, in the case of libraries, small urban areas do better than large, thanks to the good performance of the local authority libraries, which in the smaller realities are usually the only type of structure. Finally, looking at Tuscany alone, entertainment operators are the ones who contribute the most to the cultural welfare offer, especially for children and teenagers (think of the theater for schools and in disadvantaged neighborhoods). Museums and libraries, however, score well for projects promoting the inclusion of disabled people and caregivers.