On September 20th the Swedish government presented its budget proposal for 2012. In the proposal the cultural budget is virtually unchanged.
One of the press releases that the Ministry of Culture sent out in conjunction with the presentation has the title “Improved conditions for innovative culture” and talks about increasing support for “activities that renew and develop the area of culture”. Among other things, Swedish fashion “will be highlighted and promoted in Sweden and abroad.” Moderna Museet and the Swedish Arts Council receive a million kronor each to “consolidate its position” and “strengthen the field of visual art and design” respectively. The total increase in the cultural budget in 2012 from the previous year, after the salary adjustments and inflation are taken into account, is about 53 million kronor, or 0.8% of the total budget of 6.7 billion.
At the same time the Ministry of Culture claims in another press release, “Time for Culture”, that the budget between 2011 and 2012 “increases by 179 million kronor, which corresponds to 2.8%”. The reason of this discrepancy is that the Ministry has included the forthcoming labor policy initiative “Boost for Cultural Heritage” in the budget. Over a period of three years the Boost for Cultural Heritage will allocate 800 million kronor in support of “regional and municipal cultural institutions”, “state institutions” and “other actors that conduct activities in, or connected to, the area of cultural heritage”. The support will be used by these institutions to hire “those who have a particularly weak attachment to the labour market after having left the sickness insurance system following an extended period of time and who have a disability that entails an impaired capacity to work”. It will go to “measures aimed at knowledge-building, preservation and accessibility”, for example digitalizing archives and restoring cultural sites.
The initiative has been met with some criticism. Is it a question of an investment in the cultural sphere, or is it just that cultural institutions are perceived as suitable employers for unskilled labor? Are there not unemployed people who are actually qualified for jobs like digitalizing archives and restoring cultural sites, such as librarians, archaeologists and museologists? Faced with such questions, Minister for Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth told Dagens Nyheter: “I am surprised by the attitude of parts of the cultural sphere, both towards cultural heritage and to those who will be working in the Boost. I’d like to see a little bit more generosity.”
“Time for culture – the culture budget in the Budget Bill for 2012” – Press release from the Ministry of Culture
“Improved conditions for innovative culture” – Press release from the Ministry of Culture
“Cultural heritage for the future” – Press release from the Ministry of Culture
Translation from the Swedish by Jeff Kinkle.