Arts and Culture in Times of Crisis in Portugal

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


The cultural sector has been characterised by precarious work, job insecurity and a lack of social protection (Freee Art Collective, 2013; Monnier, 2009). According to the Cena-STE data, in Portugal, only 12% of culture workers have an open-ended contract, and 70% maintain a second profession. The Cultura em Luta (Culture in Protest) platform considers this situation should be changed with greater State investment, which is why, in 2015, it launched the motto “1% for culture”.

However, this goal remains to be achieved and, six years and a pandemic later, only 0.21% of the total expenditure of the 2021 State budget was allocated to the cultural sector. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation: between March and April 2020 alone, the Associação de Promotores de Espectáculos, Festivais e Eventos (Association of Promoters of Shows, Festivals and Events) registered the cancellation or postponement of 27 000 shows. The GDA (Management of Artists' Rights) adds that, on average, for each cancelled or postponed show, 18 artists, 1.3 production professionals and 2.5 technicians are left without income. The government’s response soon followed and involved a combination of cross-cutting measures for various industries and others specifically designed for the cultural sector. On March 26, Decree-Law No. 10-I / 2020 was published, which defined that cultural activities should not be cancelled but rescheduled within a maximum period of one year, and Decree-Law No. 10-G / 2020, that established the Simplified Lay-off Regime. On March 28, 2020, the call for the Linha de Apoio às Artes (Emergency Support Line for the Arts) opened. Still, organizations, professionals in the cultural sector and academics remained apprehensive about the future. (Gama 2020; Nofre et al. 2020). The climate of uncertainty dragged on until June 1, when the Government implemented the Deconfinement Plan, which allowed the reopening of concert halls and music venues under strict hygiene and safety standards. However, this brief respite for the cultural sector only lasted until October. Since then, the country has oscillated between “state of emergency” and “state of calamity”, with measures constantly changing, sometimes hampering, sometimes preventing, the planning of events in the short and medium-term. According to Cena-STE data, 80% of the planned cultural activity was cancelled and postponed without a new specific date. On January 13, 2021, the Council of Ministers determined the closure of all cultural spaces. The following day, the Minister for Culture, announced a new set of measures, notably: 1) the Programa Garantir a Cultura (Guarantee Culture Program), which provides for universal and non-competitive support of 42 million euros; 2) DGARTES allocated 35 million euros for sustained support and 8.4 million to 368 entities that were not supported in 2020; 3) Social support of 438.81 euros for each cultural worker; 4) Support for non-professional artistic structures.

This paper aims to provide a sociological analysis of the cultural policies proposed or applied in Portugal during the coronavirus pandemic, based on press analysis, government publications, and preliminary surveys developed by unions and associations.
Period29 Jun 2021
Event titleCongress of the Swiss Sociological Association: Social Justice in Times of Uncertainty
Event typeConference
LocationSwitzerlandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Cultural policies
  • Portugal
  • COVID-19
  • Artist’s statute