Culture statistics - cultural employment

Data extracted in December 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: December 2017.

This article presents data on cultural employment derived from the EU Labour Force Survey (LFS) covering the population aged 15 and over. These statistics were obtained using the methodology proposed in the ESSnet-Culture final report (2012).

The report defines ‘cultural employment’ by including all persons working in an economic sector defined as ‘cultural’, irrespective of whether they are employed in a cultural occupation. In addition, all occupations relating to culture are included, even where the people concerned are employed in non-cultural sectors.

The analysis presented here seeks to provide an overview of cultural employment, comparing it to total employment over time and presenting it in the light of other variables used in the EU-LFS, such as age, gender and educational attainment. Additionally, there is a short section devoted to the characteristics of certain cultural occupations (artists, writers, etc.).

Figure 1: Cultural employment, 2015
(% of total employment)
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex)
Table 1: Cultural employment, 2011 and 2015
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex)
Table 2: Annual growth rates and AAGR of total and cultural employment, 2008–10 versus 2011–15
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex) and (lfsa_egan2)
Figure 2: Cultural employment and total employment, EU-28, 2008–15
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex) and (lfsa_egan2)
Figure 3: Women in cultural employment and in total employment, 2015
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex) and (lfsa_egan2)
Figure 4: Persons aged 15–29 in cultural employment and in total employment, 2015
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_age) and (lfsa_egan)
Figure 5: Persons aged 15–29 in cultural employment, 2008 and 2015
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_age)
Figure 6: Total unemployment rate by age group, EU-28, 2007–15
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_pganws)
Figure 7: Persons in cultural employment by educational attainment level, 2015
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_edu)
Figure 8: Persons with tertiary educational attainment in cultural employment and in total employment, 2015
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_edu) and (cult_emp_artpc)
Figure 9: Share of self-employed among 'creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists', compared with total employment, 2015
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_artpc)
Table 3: Employment characteristics of 'creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists' (ISCO 264-265), compared with total employment, 2015
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_artpc)
Figure 10: Definition of the scope of cultural employment: examples
Source: ESSnet-Culture final report (2012)

Main statistical findings

Around 6.5 million cultural jobs in the EU (nearly 3 % of total employment)

With regard to economic sectors, cultural employment relates to activities such as: ‘creative, arts and entertainment activities’, ‘libraries, archives, museums and other cultural activities’, ‘programming and broadcasting activities’, ‘motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing activities’ and ‘specialised design activities’.

Concerning occupations, cultural jobs embrace such professions as writers, architects, musicians, journalists, actors, dancers, librarians, handicraft workers and graphic designers.

A full list of NACE and ISCO codes relevant to cultural employment is provided in the section on ‘Data sources and availability’ below.

On the basis of this definition of ‘cultural employment’, around 6.5 million people in the EU were working in a cultural sector or occupation in 2015, that is, 2.9 % of the total number of people in employment (see Figures 1 and 2).

There was a small but steady increase in the number of people working in culture between 2011 and 2015 (see Table 1). In 2015 there were 410 000 more (+ 7 %) cultural jobs in the EU than in 2011, showing an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of + 1.7 % (see Table 2). The slight increase was also observed in relative terms: cultural employment as a percentage of the total rose from 2.8 % in 2011 to 2.9 % in 2015.

In individual countries, the percentage of people employed in culture in 2015 varied from 1.2 % in Romania to 4.4 % in Luxembourg (see Figure 1 and Table 1). The share was also high (above 3.5 %) in Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The EFTA countries (Iceland, Switzerland and Norway) all had percentages above the EU average, while the candidate countries (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey) had shares below the EU average.

The evolution of the weight of cultural employment in total employment between 2011 and 2015 varied among EU Member States. While the indicator rose slightly or stagnated in general, there was a very slight decrease in four countries: Germany, France, Hungary and Finland (see Table 1). In all the others, both the share of cultural employment and the number of people employed rose during the same period, except in Greece (where the loss of cultural jobs followed the general trends in the whole economy). The largest relative increase in the share of cultural employment, by 0.5 percentage points, was recorded in Latvia. With around 200 000 more cultural jobs in 2015 than in 2011, the United Kingdom accounted for 50 % of the total increase in cultural employment in the EU.

Cultural employment showed some resilience to the 2008 financial crisis

From an economic perspective, it is interesting to look at figures on employment after 2008, the year of the financial crisis. However, the ISCO revision was implemented for the reference year 2011, affecting the EU-LFS figures on cultural employment: pre-2011 figures are underestimated compared to those from 2011 onwards. As a result of that break in series, trends are presented separately for 2008–10 and 2011–15 (see Figure 2 and Table 2).

The trend data reveal the extent to which cultural employment was hit by the 2008 crisis (see Table 2), especially in the first two years after the financial crisis (2008–10).

From 2008 to 2010, numbers of cultural jobs rose by an annual average of 0.4 %. Although modest at first sight, this represents quite a good performance compared to total employment, for which a negative average annual growth rate was recorded over the same period (– 1.5 %). In other words, the data show that the cultural sector had a certain resilience to the crisis. Indeed, cultural employment (in millions of people and as a percentage of total employment) rose steadily between 2008 and 2010, while total employment plunged over the same period.

That contrast between cultural and total employment trends was still visible after 2011, although to a lesser extent. It seemed to be about to vanish in 2014 (when both growth rates were positive and similar: 1.8 % for cultural employment, 1.4 % for total employment) but the contrast again increased in 2015 (2.6 % for cultural employment, 1.2 % for total employment).

As in total employment, more men than women are employed in culture in the EU

Female participation in the labour market is one of the concerns of the European Commission, which is committed to promoting equality between men and women by creating conditions conducive to increasing women’s participation and taking actions to promote it.

Men continued to account for a larger share of the EU labour market in 2015 (54 %) — see Figure 3. Their share in cultural employment was also higher than women’s, at 53 %, mirroring the overall ratio.

In seven Member States (Belgium, Cyprus, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain and the United Kingdom), not only were women’s shares in cultural employment the lowest recorded in the EU (45 % or less), but comparison with total employment figures also showed that women were under-represented in culture. For example, in the United Kingdom, women’s share in the total labour market stood at 47 %, while it was even lower in the cultural sectors, at 43 %. In Greece and Italy, shares as low as 45 and 44 % merely reflected the overall gender gap in employment as a whole (42 % of women).

On the other hand, women are in a slight majority in the cultural sectors of 12 EU Member States. Their share in cultural employment rises to over 65% in the Baltic countries, where women and men are equally represented in total employment.

Young people’s share of cultural jobs varies considerably across the EU

In the EU overall, 1.2 million people aged between 15 and 29 were working in the cultural field in 2015. This represented 18 % of all cultural jobs and was very close to this age group’s share in overall employment (19 %) (see Figure 4).

At Member State level, the proportions of young people in cultural employment varied a lot, from 12 % in Italy to 31 % in Malta. In 15 Member States the share of employed people aged 15–29 was above the EU-28 average, while four of them had shares at least 5 percentage points higher than the EU average: Denmark, Latvia, Malta and the Netherlands. On the other hand, Italy’s share of young people was 6 percentage points below the EU average.

In most Member States, the young (15–29-year-olds) were in general represented in cultural jobs to the extent they are in total employment (less than 2 percentage points difference). In six other Member States, they were over-represented in cultural employment compared to total employment (Portugal recording the highest difference of 7 percentage points). In the remaining six EU countries, the opposite pattern was recorded, especially in Austria where only 17 % of people in cultural employment are aged 15-29 (compared to 23 % in total employment).

A comparison between the share of the 15–29 age group in cultural employment in 2008 and in 2015 shows a 3 percentage points decrease from 21 % to 18 % in the EU as a whole (see Figure 5). Young people’s share in cultural employment fell in most EU countries, rising only in Belgium, Estonia, Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary and Sweden. The steepest decreases were in Croatia (– 11 percentage points, low reliability data yet), Spain (– 10 percentage points), Ireland and Cyprus (both – 9 percentage points), and Greece (– 8 percentage points). The financial and economic crisis that hit Europe in 2008 may explain this fall, as the first age groups to suffer on the labour market in a recession are the youngest (see Figure 6).

Cultural jobs are held predominantly by people with tertiary education

The level of educational attainment is defined according to the International standard classification of education (ISCED). In 2015, around 60 % of people working in culture in the EU had a tertiary education, while only 7 % had completed at most lower secondary education, and around one third had upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education (see Figure 7).

The share of people with tertiary education working in culture (61 %) was almost double that in total employment (33 %), representing a difference of 28 percentage points (see Figure 8). Of the three variables analysed so far (sex, age and educational attainment), the last is the strongest characteristic of cultural employment. This is not surprising, as many cultural occupations require years of study (e.g. architects, journalists, linguists, often musicians, etc.)

In 2015, over half of people working in culture in 25 EU Member States were educated to tertiary level (see Figure 8). The share even exceeds two thirds in 7 countries: the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Ireland, Belgium, Lithuania, Spain and Luxembourg (where it peaked at 82 %). This is very different from the situation in overall employment, where the share of 50 % was not reached by any country and eight Member States displayed a share above 40 %.

Focus on artists and writers

This section presents some characteristics of two ISCO categories of occupations: ‘creative and performing artists’ (including visual artists, musicians, dancers, actors and film directors, etc.) and ‘authors, journalists and linguists’. For simplicity’s sake they are referred to below as ‘artists and writers’. There were nearly 2 million of them EU-wide in 2015, accounting for 30 % of total cultural employment.

This section deals with some features of employment considered relevant to the working conditions of artists and writers: self-employment status, working time (full-time versus part-time), multiple job-holding and, for employees, contractual status (permanent versus temporary contracts).

Nearly half (48 %) of all artists and writers in the EU were self-employed in 2015 (see Figure 9). This percentage is much higher than that reported in total employment (15 %). The substantial difference is largely due to the weight of countries such as Germany (where self-employment in cultural jobs reached 55 %), and the United Kingdom (62 %).

This contrasts with countries where self-employment among artists and writers accounted for only 20 % (Croatia) or even 15 % (Luxembourg). But even in those countries, the share of self-employment in these cultural occupations lay above the share observed in the total working population.

Time spent at work is an important determinant of the worker’s position in the labour market and, in most cases, of his or her financial resources. Full-time employment often comes with benefits that are not typically offered to part-timers. In the EU, 70 % of artists and writers said they had a full-time job, which is lower than the corresponding proportion of the total workforce: 80 % (see Table 3).

Countries where artists and writers reported a full-time job more often than the total workforce are very rare (Luxembourg, Slovenia and the EFTA country Iceland). Rather, as a rule artists and writers proportionally less often held full-time positions, while the figures were sometimes far lower, as in Cyprus (66 % of full-time artists and writers, against 86 % in overall employment), Estonia (69 %, as opposed to 89 % in the total workforce) and Greece (75 % by comparison with 91 %).

The Netherlands is the only EU country where fewer than half of artists and writers worked full-time (44 %). Part-time work was indeed more widespread here than in other countries (51 %).

Part-time employment may lead workers to consider getting a second job. ‘Full-time part-timers’ sometimes seek to complement their main part-time job with another part-time occupation, to increase income. Holding a second job may thus be an indication of (self-perceived) precarious employment.

However, there are various reasons for holding multiple jobs. In particular, people working simultaneously in their own professional practice (self-employed) and for a public or private employer are also considered to hold two jobs. A self-employed person owning two businesses also enters into that category.

Table 3 shows the percentage of employed people with only one job. EU-wide, 96 % of employed people held one job in 2015, while the figure was 90 % for artists and writers. With notable exceptions in the Czech Republic, Greece and Romania, artists and writers were less likely than other workers to have only one job. The biggest differences were recorded in Estonia (where only 81 % of artists and writers had only one job, against 95 % in the whole workforce), France (83 %, by comparison with 96 %) and Latvia (82 % versus 95 %).

As regards employees, artists and writers stood less chance of securing a contract than employees as a whole. In the EU, 86 % of all employees had a permanent employment contract in 2015, while the figure was just 77 % for artists and writers. This discrepancy was particularly visible in France, where only 55 % of artists and writers had a permanent contract, as opposed to 84 % of the total population of employees.

The situation was more favourable for artists and writers working as employees in Estonia, Latvia, Romania (95 % or more get a secured contract) and, above all, in Lithuania where all of them reported that they held a permanent contract.

Data sources and availability

The statistical concept of cultural employment is based on the methodology proposed by the European Statistical System (ESS) Network on Culture (see its ESSnet-Culture final report (2012)).

The report defines cultural employment by crossing economic activities (using NACE Rev. 2 classification) and occupations (using ISCO-08 classification).

As the ESSnet-Culture report notes, ‘cultural employment’ covers three types of situation (see Figure 10):

  • person employed holds a cultural occupation and works in the cultural sector (e.g. a ballet dancer employed by a ballet company or a journalist working for a daily newspaper);
  • person employed holds a cultural occupation outside the cultural sector (e.g. a designer in the automobile industry);
  • person employed holds a non-cultural occupation in the cultural sector (e.g. an accountant in a publishing house).

Eurostat’s statistics on cultural employment come from the EU Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS). Eurostat compiles data on economic activity and occupation applying a specific matrix to create the aggregate of cultural employment. These data can be more detailed by using other LFS variables, in particular core variables: sex, age and educational attainment. The covered population is that aged 15 years and over.

The table below lists all ISCO and NACE codes classified as fully cultural by the ESSnet-Culture report.

Sectors of economic activity that are fully cultural (NACE Rev. 2)

5811 Book publishing
5813 Publishing of newspapers
5814 Publishing of journals and periodicals
5821 Publishing of computer games
59 Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing activities
60 Programming and broadcasting activities
6391 News agency activities
7111 Architectural activities
741 Specialised design activities
8552 Cultural education
90 Creative, arts and entertainment activities
91 Libraries, archives, museums and other cultural activities

Occupations that are fully cultural (ISCO-08)

2161 Building architects
2162 Landscape architects
2163 Product and garment designers
2166 Graphic and multimedia designers
2354 Other music teachers
2355 Other arts teachers
262 Librarians, archivists and curators
264 Authors, journalists and linguists
265 Creative and performing artists
3431 Photographers
3432 Interior designers and decorators
3433 Gallery, museum and library technicians
3435 Other artistic and cultural associate professionals
3521 Broadcasting and audio-visual technicians
4411 Library clerks
7312 Musical instrument makers and tuners
7313 Jewellery and precious-metal workers
7314 Potters and related workers
7315 Glass makers, cutters, grinders and finishers
7316 Sign writers, decorative painters, engravers and etchers
7317 Handicraft workers in wood, basketry and related materials
7318 Handicraft workers in textile, leather and related materials
7319 Handicraft workers not elsewhere classified

In the EU-LFS, the required level of detail is two digits for NACE and three digits for ISCO: higher level of detail is provided by some countries on a voluntary basis. The 4-digit ISCO codes and 3-digit NACE codes were therefore not identifiable for all countries. In such cases, the cultural ISCO and NACE employment figures were estimated on the basis of the countries that provide a higher level of detail.

When estimating cultural employment, it is difficult to determine what proportion of activities and occupations that are only partly cultural is genuinely cultural. For this reason, activities and occupations partly cultural at 3-digit of NACE and 4-digit of ISCO have been excluded from estimates. For example, ISCO 1431 ‘Sports, recreation and cultural centre managers’ refers to an occupation with a cultural component; however, it is impossible to estimate the proportion of that occupation that relates to culture. Taking a conservative approach, it was therefore decided not to include this occupation when calculating cultural employment figures.

Moreover, in the EU-LFS survey the lack of information on secondary cultural jobs means that they cannot be included under ‘cultural employment’ (only the main job of survey respondents has been taken into account). In view of these limitations and the approach chosen, data on cultural employment represent an underestimation.


Culture is one of Europe’s greatest strengths: it is a source of values, identity and a sense of belonging. It also contributes to people’s well-being, to social cohesion and inclusion. The cultural and creative sectors are a driver of economic growth, job creation and external trade.

That is why culture is becoming increasingly important at EU level. In accordance with Article 167 of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU ‘shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common heritage to the fore’.

The EU supports these objectives through the Creative Europe programme, as well as a number of policy actions set out in the Work Plan for Culture (2015–2018). This Work Plan, adopted by EU Culture Ministers in December 2014, sets out the main priorities for European cooperation in cultural policy-making: inclusive and accessible culture, the promotion of cultural heritage, support to the flowering of the cultural and creative sectors, promotion of cultural diversity and of culture in EU external relations.

The production of reliable, comparable and up-to-date cultural statistics, which are the basis of sound cultural policy-making, are also a cross-sectorial priority of this Work Plan.

Eurostat compiles culture statistics from several data collections conducted at EU level to provide policy-makers and other users with information on the main trends in employment, business, international trade, participation and consumption patterns in the field of culture.

Statistics on cultural employment make it possible to assess the weight of culture in the employment as a whole and inform about main characteristics of cultural employment, based on the variables like age, sex and educational attainment.

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Further Eurostat information

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Culture (cult)
Cultural employment (cult_emp)
Cultural employment by sex (cult_emp_sex)
Cultural employment by age (cult_emp_age)
Cultural employment by educational attainment level (cult_emp_edu)
Cultural employment by NACE Rev.2 activity (cult_emp_n2)
Persons working as creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists (cult_emp_art)
Persons working as creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists by individual and employment characteristics (cult_emp_artpc)
Labour market (labour)
Employment and unemployment (Labour Force Survey) (employ)
LFS series – detailed annual survey results (lfsa)
Employment – LFS series (lfsa_emp)

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