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Increasing sector-wide support for arts freelancers

Speech by Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth & Transport, at The Nanyang Academy Of Fine Arts Convocation

NAFA Board Chairman Ms Low Sin Leng
NAFA President Mr Chia Mia Chiang
Parents and Graduates
Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. Congratulations to the graduating Class of 2019! I am delighted to join you today to celebrate this milestone, and share in your excitement as you embark on the next phase in your lives.
  2. For many of you, today is the culmination of years of hard work. At the same time, let’s also show appreciation to the people who have supported you along the way. May I invite all graduates to rise, and give your families, teachers and friends a big round of applause!

    Government’s support towards the arts

  3. The arts are integral to making Singapore a vibrant and livable city, and for Singaporeans to lead well-rounded and fulfilling lives. It brings people from diverse backgrounds together, connects us to vulnerable segments of society, and helps shape our sense of national identity.
  4. As a nation, the importance we place on the role of the arts in our society has never been stronger. Especially with the increasing global political tensions that threaten to unsettle peace and stability, as well as the fear of looming recessions driven by trade tensions, it is all the more important that we draw on the power of arts to strengthen our social fabric and solidarity.
  5. This is why the Singapore Government remains committed to investing in the arts and supporting our artists. Just last year, we launched Our SG Arts Plan and Our SG Heritage Plan. These are our 5-year masterplans to grow the arts and heritage sectors. They contribute to the development of vibrant arts and heritage ecosystems, and deepen engagement with our arts and culture to foster a caring, cohesive and confident nation.
  6. Today, I will touch on two priorities highlighted in Our SG Arts Plan that reflect the Government’s commitment to growing the arts sector. First, the building of diverse capabilities to strengthen the arts ecosystem as a whole; and second, increasing sector-wide support for artists to build meaningful careers in the arts. Let me share some of the initiatives which aim to achieve these outcomes.

    Building diverse capabilities in the arts sector

  7. NAFA has played an important role in championing the development of Singapore’s arts scene. NAFA’s contribution to arts education complements the efforts by the National Arts Council (NAC) to support arts professionals in producing high quality and impactful work. Generations of talent have been nurtured with care by NAFA’s passionate educators and have contributed works which are now part of Singapore’s artistic canon.
  8. The innovative spirit of NAFA’s pioneers and alumni artists continues to resonate within and beyond the academy’s walls. This year, the NAFA Distinguished Alumni Award will go to Lim Chin Huat, an illustrious NAFA alumnus and Young Artist Award recipient. Chin Huat blazed the trail in Singapore’s nascent dance scene in 1996 when he became the co-founder and artistic director of ECNAD, one of the first contemporary dance companies in Singapore. ECNAD sparked off the formation of many other contemporary dance companies, helping to shape Singapore’s dance scene in the years that followed. Congratulations, Chin Huat!
  9. For the scene to grow in both depth and diversity, it is also important that we support continuous learning and professional development to equip our artists with skills necessary to professionalise their practice. To this end, NAC has partnered several other institutions to develop programmes and provide platforms to recognise and showcase our talents. These include creative writing residency programmes, fundraising courses, technical theatre training programmes and arts education courses.

    Increasing sector-wide support for freelancers

  10. The growth of Singapore’s cultural scene is the result of hard work and perseverance of generations of arts community stakeholders, in partnership with the private and public sector. An important component comes from the contributions of our freelance artists, who make up close to half of those working in the arts. The 2016 NAC Arts & Culture Employment Study further highlighted that working conditions within the sector will need to be enhanced in order for arts careers to remain viable and sustainable.
  11. In the age of the gig economy, the number of freelance artists will grow. Therefore, it is important that we strengthen sector-wide support for freelance arts practitioners and professionals.
  12. At the Committee of Supply debates earlier this year, I spoke in Parliament about enhancing professional support for independent artists and to help them to grow meaningful careers. Numerous feedback and suggestions from the arts community were gathered from 24 engagement sessions, conducted by NAC, and we have since explored various partnerships and initiatives to further improve the employability of arts freelancers.
  13. For example, MCCY and its key arts and heritage agencies have now adopted MOM’s Tripartite Standard for Contracting Self-Employed persons. The tripartite standard aims to encourage businesses to have proper written contracts and stamps out the problem of late or non-payments, fostering fair and progressive employment conditions for our freelancers.
  14. MCCY, NAC and NHB, are also looking forward to participating in the Contribute-As-You-Earn (CAYE) pilot, which will allow freelancers to better save for their healthcare. Currently, the self-employed persons are required to contribute to their MediSave accounts on an annual basis. Under CAYE, service buyers will make it easier for freelancers to make small regular contributions to MediSave, as and when a fee is earned, instead of a bigger lump sum payment at the end of the year. Apart from bringing convenience to freelancers, contributing earlier also allows their MediSave amounts to grow with compounded interest, so that more savings can be set aside for future healthcare needs. We are encouraging more organisations to join CAYE, so that our arts freelancers can benefit from these national schemes too.

    Arts Resource Hub
  15. Many of you here may be familiar with the idea of a national resource centre, in both digital and physical form, dedicated to supporting the needs of our arts freelancers and improving their working conditions. It gives me great pleasure to announce that the Arts Resource Hub website (artsresourcehub.sg) just went live today! This website aggregates resources and information in areas such as financial planning, career development and legal knowledge. It also has a jobs portal to assist those looking for specific work opportunities in the arts sector. So do check it out after the ceremony!
  16. By January 2020, there will also be two dedicated physical spaces for arts freelancers at the Goodman Arts Centre and Stamford Arts Centre, offering hot-desking and networking opportunities. These physical spaces will complement the online resource website, and provide opportunities for arts freelancers to huddle with like-minded peers from the arts community. It will facilitate interactions among arts freelancers, enable the exchange of ideas and creation of new works, and at the same time, alleviate the isolation experienced by arts freelancers who often work independently.
  17. The Arts Resource Hub is the result of a series of engagement sessions with over 400 people from the arts community. In time to come, there will be even more shared resources and services for arts freelancers. We hope to help our arts freelancers and young arts graduates like you build sustainable careers, and give them more assurance of support so that they can focus on producing their work.


  18. With the foundation that NAFA has provided, I am confident that you have a bright future ahead. I urge you to use your imagination, ability and determination to seize the opportunities. Like many of you, I have high hopes for the arts and culture in Singapore. We look forward to partnering you to grow the sector to greater heights, and make arts an integral part of our lives.
  19. My heartiest congratulations once again on this milestone. I wish you the very best in your future endeavours. Thank you.


Last updated on 24 October 2019