Since the report of the survey regarding essential workers was published on Sunday (14 June), there were three ranking lists of essential and non-essential jobs, as well as jobs that Singaporeans don’t want to do.
One of the questions asked in the survey was: Which are the jobs that are most crucial in keeping Singapore going? And the results were presented in a set of pie charts.
In the report’s infographics, “Artist” was being voted as the Top 1 non-essential job by the 1,000 respondents who took part in the survey. A whopping 71% thought though Artist was non-essential, followed by “Telemarketer”, “Social media manager/PR specialist”, “Business consultant”, and “Human resource manager”.
Many were upset at the fact that such ranking exists and the founder of Artsolute, Terence Tan, wrote an opinion piece on We, The Citizens yesterday (15 June) to explain the importance of arts and media in Singapore.
Understanding the struggle of the arts scene
He pointed out how the survey by the Straits Times portrayed the “grave misconception” about the activities Singaporeans perceive as “vital” or “essential”. The lists of essential and non-essential jobs were a battle between jobs needed 24/7 for “immediate health and safety”, and the jobs that contribute to human’s “progress and psychosocial well-being”.
Considering how many do not understand the picture of the arts and media field, Mr Tan laid out that many creative-based activities, such as the visual and theatre arts, had been forced to digitise their work.
The digitisation of the arts and entertainment services were revealed to be supported by an offer of S$55 million in total. During the circuit breaker (CB) and post-CB phase 1 and 2, artists and entertainers were to perform and distribute their work online.
Mr Tan expressed that the digitisation posed limitations and restrictions to many arts practitioners.
He suggested that it is common for creative activities to be excluded from “basic needs” like food, shelter and security because it stemmed from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Noting how times have been changing, the artist believed that Maslow’s theory was outdated and could no longer be applied to the 21st century. He emphasised that everyone does not have the same structure of value and needs and that the creative scene was “politely relegated”, “mildly considered” and being told that taxi drivers and airline staff who also needed help.
As a comparison, Mr Tan described that New Zealand had recognised how jobs revolving arts were having a positive “flow-on” effects for other important parts of the nation’s economy. He supported this point by explaining that many media and entertainment jobs were created directly and indirectly from the arts field and had been “recorded as vital parts” of an economic recovery.
To make it understandable for the Singaporean public, he used Singapore’s Night Festival, Comedy Masala, as well as Singapore’s traditional and contemporary architectures as examples. Without these events, he questioned if there would be as many visitors who’d be attracted to Singapore.
Acknowledging that everyone in Singapore had to power through this unprecedented time, Mr Tan doubted the country’s choice in improving one sector while lowering the needs of another sector.
“I fully appreciate that everyone in Singapore has to weather this storm together. But I wonder how this necessitates sidelining the arts. I question if it is wise to put all our eggs in one digitised basket on one hand, while we continue to focus on bailing out our transportation and aviation industries on another, when improving one directly lowers the need for the other.”
He reminded that people’s lives are closely related to arts and artists, as they contribute to everyday things like mobile phones, movies, and even the infographics displayed on the Straits Times survey report.
Not just people who are involved in graphics, but also the writers and journalists who update the public on the current affairs and “living situations”.
Mr Tan believed that arts serve as a “necessary distraction” and “inspiration” for when people feel overwhelmed or lost.
“Creative activities provide the necessary distraction and inspiration when we are overwhelmed or lost. And it is a soft power we should sustain, rather than consume blindly from international giants like Disney and the Korean wave.”