Singaporean artists and creatives respond to non-essential survey claims

Singaporean artists and creatives respond to non-essential survey claims


The difference between ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ has been a frequent conversation in the age of COVID-19. 

Most recently, local artists from various industries took to social media to express their frustrations and anger after a commissioned survey, posted by The Sunday Times, revealed that artists were considered the topmost non-essential job. 

On 14 June, the Singaporean news publication published results of a survey, commissioned from Singaporean market researcher Milieu Insight, detailing public opinion on which jobs were essential, in the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Entitled ‘Essential, or not?’, the survey collated responses from 1000 respondents that were a “nationally representative sampling across age, gender and income groups.”


The survey revealed that 71% of the respondents thought that artists were the most non-essential occupation, followed by telemarketers and social media managers and PR specialists.

These results caused an uproar within the local art community and has garnered varied opinions. Many artists stated the importance of arts, while others expressed indifference.

Check out what artists and other members of the arts community have to say below:













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// is it enough to be an artist in singapore? part 2 // then on sunday, the straits times survey was published. (picture 4 for the non-singaporean folks who may not have seen it.) so well, let's face it. many people already thought the arts were non-essential before covid19! sure, the arts don't give you food, water, air or shelter. if you didn't have any spotify, apple music, youtube, netflix, etc today, you'd still wake up tomorrow. but i mean, other jobs don't too, like sports, but they're not getting kicked while they're down. the survey comes at a time when, according to, at least 2796 creative industry freelancers have lost 8627 from COVID-19 related project cancellations, resulting in a whopping total loss of $28,837,635 in come — and that doesn’t even factor in possible projects that would have or could have have been initiated later in the year. the arts have always been a vehicle of convenience to socities and governments. when they want free entertainment, they stop by a government-sponsored festival. when they don't, they call the police to shut down grassroot gigs even before the 10pm time limit. when governments favour the arts, they use it as propoganda to further their own agenda. when they view artists as a threat, they exterminate them (see pol pot's regime, china's communist regime, practically ever regime ever.) and why would artists be a threat? artists have purpose. you've probably heard all the quotes before. "the arts are not a way to make a living. they are a very human way of making life more bearable." - kurt vonnegut. during lockdown, people used the art to entertain themselves. i did a quick IGS poll asking people if they consumed art within the last month. i could have probably made it the last 24h, and got the same results. (it would also have been about 98% if me and another friend hadn't accidentally pressed "nah" LOL). but more than entertainment, art comforts a lonely spirit, mends a broken heart and even heals a divided community. (and we haven't got into what learning an artform can do for your mental capacity!) continued in the comments below.

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Even local artists and other social media users contributed to the discussion:


What a way to start my Sunday morning – to find out that my fellow Singaporeans deem artists as least essential (look at the headline: “Essential, or not?”, as well as the ranking). I’m dejected, but am I really surprised? Not one bit. Why? Because time and time again, after my peers and I decided to pursue a further education in the Arts, we have been met with scepticism, frustration, disappointment, and even ridicule. Imagine being young, passionate kids with a burning passion, having to deal with people trying to extinguish that flame time and time again. But in results-driven Singapore, there’s no use arguing. Everything needs to be backed by data, by facts, by case studies. Show, don’t tell. So, here are some ways in which artists have been absolutely essential. Without artists, those easy-to-comprehend visual guides for the Budgets, or the dissemination of masks, or the new laws and measures will not exist. Without artists, entertainment and edutainment (video games, books, tv shows, music, radio shows/podcasts, etc) will not exist. Without artists, that inspiring and unifying song we all sang at 8pm at our windows will not exist. And ironically enough, without artists, infographics that inform, like this one, will not exist. Works of artists have been used to educate, to bring joy, to encourage critical thinking and to inspire hope. That, to me, in a time like this, is essential. Artists have done more than enough to deserve better than to be voted #1 among jobs deemed least essential. Perhaps this can help inform my fellow Singaporeans. Hopefully in the next survey, artists in Singapore can get the respect they deserve.

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Nevertheless, no matter the public opinion on the arts, the world has undeniably used music, arts, and creativity to get by during these unprecedented and difficult times. With worldwide restrictions on movement and government-imposed self-isolation, we all found ourselves turning to different cultural by-products as a means to cope and gain control over the chaos.

From Italy to Singapore, people all over the world joined together to sing from their balconies, in a show of unity and support to frontliners and those affected by the pandemic:

Artists and musicians collaborating on projects to spread awareness on COVID-19 and encourage people to stay home:

Livestream concerts and karaoke sessions to bring people together despite social distancing:

“This is how, despite the crisis, art is demonstrating its resilience today. Ideas are popping up everywhere: neighbours are gathering at their windows to sing or project a film;  many artists are imagining innovative and creative solutions to continue communicating with their audiences, and orchestras are working together remotely,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, in a message on World Art Day (15/04).

There is a reason why participating in arts and music is a popular coping mechanism during a crisis - it promotes a sense of belonging and support in a time where anxiety and panic rules. Researchers refer to it as ‘interpersonal synchrony’, which is a powerful tool that creates connections and trust, as well as improves emotional state and mental health. 

So, while artists may not be publicly regarded as ‘essential’, their importance and influence during this time are definitely worth noting.