In France, performing artists are flexible wage earners. Throughout their entire ‘project-based career,’ they alternate between employment and joblessness several times a year. A derogatory unemployment insurance system takes into account the specificity of this short-term employment system. In this article, we explore the long-term consequences at the individual level of such a contractual precariousness secured by unemployment insurance. The continuous decrease of retirement pensions illustrates the unexpected effects of a growing interconnectedness between direct wages and unemployment indemnities when they are used as complementary and not as replacement incomes. Artists can compensate low retirement pensions by cumulating employment and retirement pensions. But professional inequalities do not stop once the retirement threshold is crossed. The article opens with a reflection on the conditions enabling “active aging” in the performing arts and shows that, in a protection system essentially based on contributions calculated on wages, and on the hypothesis of a strict correspondence between work and employment periods, the durable installation in flexible employment statuses individualizes economic destinies and increases inequalities in the long run.
- social protection
- project-based careers