Culture statistics - cultural employment

Data extracted in December 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: January 2019.

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). In 2016, the cultural scope was slightly extended by decisions taken within the Culture Statistics Working Group (details are provided in the section 'Data sources and availability'.

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 if 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 and writers).

Figure 1: Cultural employment, 2016
(% of total employment)
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex)
Table 1: Cultural employment, 2011 and 2016
Source:Eurostat (cult_emp_sex)
Figure 2: Women in cultural employment and in total employment, 2016
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_egan) and (cult_emp_sex)
Figure 3: Persons aged 15–29 in cultural employment and in total employment, 2016
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_egan) and (cult_emp_age)
Figure 4: Persons in cultural employment by educational attainment level, 2016
Source: Eurostat, (cult_emp_edu)
Figure 5: Persons with tertiary educational attainment in cultural employment and in total employment, 2016
Source: Eurostat, (cult_emp_edu) and (cult_emp_artpc)
Figure 6: Share of self-employed among 'creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists', compared with total employment, 2016
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_artpc)
Table 2: Employment characteristics of 'creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists' (ISCO 264-265), compared with total employment, 2016
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_artpc)
Figure 7: Definition of the scope of cultural employment: examples
Source: ESSnet-Culture final report (2012)

Main statistical findings

Around 8.4 million people in cultural employment across the EU (3.7 % 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’, 'publishing of books, periodicals and other publishing activities ‘, 'printing', ‘programming and broadcasting activities’, ‘motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing activities’ or ‘specialised design activities’.

Concerning occupations, cultural jobs embrace such professions as writers, architects, musicians, journalists, actors, dancers, librarians, handicraft workers or 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 the above definition of ‘cultural employment’, in 2016 around 8.4 million people in the EU were working in a cultural sector or occupation, that is, 3.7 % of the total number of people in employment (see Figure 1).

There was a small but steady increase in the number of people working in culture between 2011 and 2016 (see Table 1). In 2016 there were 549 000 more (+ 7 %) cultural jobs in the EU than in 2011, showing an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of + 1.3 %. The slight increase was also observed in relative terms: cultural employment as a percentage of the total rose from 3.6 % in 2011 to 3.7 % in 2016.

In individual countries, the percentage of people employed in culture in 2016 varied from 1.6 % in Romania to 5 % or over in Estonia, Luxembourg and Sweden (see Figure 1 and Table 1). The EFTA countries (Iceland, Switzerland and Norway) all had percentages above the EU average, while the candidate countries (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey) had shares below the EU average.

The evolution of the number of persons in cultural employment between 2011 and 2016 varied among EU Member States. While the indicator rose slightly or stagnated in general (see Table 1), there was a very slight decrease in Italy (-2 %) and a more severe decrease in Greece (-7 %), Finland (-9 %) and Croatia (-16 %). The decrease in Greece should be nuanced by a positive evolution of the weight of cultural employment in total employment (from 3.1 % in 2011 to 3.2 % in 2016), meaning that the loss of cultural jobs barely followed the general trends in the whole economy. The largest relative increase in the share of cultural employment, by 1.1 percentage points, was recorded in Latvia. With around 205 000 more cultural jobs in 2016 than in 2011, the United Kingdom accounted for almost 40 % of the total increase in cultural employment in the EU.

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

Increasing female labour participation is one of the policy objectives of the European Commission, which is committed to promoting gender equality in the labour market through a mix of legislation, policy guidance and financial support.

Men continued to account for a larger share of the EU labour market in 2016 (54 %) — see Figure 2. Their share in cultural employment was also higher than women’s, at 54 %, mirroring the overall ratio.

In six Member States (Belgium, Spain, France, Malta, the Netherlands 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 and occupations, at 42 %. In Greece and Italy, shares as low as 44 and 43 % merely reflected the overall gender gap in employment as a whole (42 % of women).

On the other hand, women are in a majority in the cultural employment in some EU Member States. Their share in cultural employment rises to over 60% in the Baltic countries, where women and men are equally represented in total employment.

Young people’s share in cultural employment varies considerably across the EU

In the EU overall, 1.5 million people aged between 15 and 29 were working in the cultural field in 2016. This represented 18 % of all cultural jobs and was very close to this age group’s share in overall employment (19 %) (see Figure 3).

At Member State level, the proportion of young people in cultural employment varied a lot, from 11 % in Greece to 26 % in Latvia. In 12 Member States the share of employed people aged 15–29 was above the EU-28 average, while five of them had shares at least 5 percentage points higher than the EU average: Denmark, Latvia, Cyprus, Malta and the United Kingdom.

In half of the Member States, the young (15–29-year-olds) were in general represented in the cultural field to the extent they are in total employment (less than 2 percentage points difference). In five other Member States, they were over-represented in cultural employment compared to total employment (Latvia recording the highest difference of 7 percentage points). In the remaining nine EU countries, the opposite pattern was recorded, especially in Slovenia where only 12 % of people in cultural employment were aged 15-29 (compared to 16 % in total employment).

Jobs in cultural field are held predominantly by people with tertiary education

In 2016, around 60 % of people working in culture in the EU had a tertiary education, while only 8 % had completed at most lower secondary education, and around one third had upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education (see Figure 4).

The share of people with tertiary education working in culture (58 %) was almost double that in total employment (34 %), representing a difference of 24 percentage points (see Figure 5). 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 2016, over half of people working in culture in 23 EU Member States were educated to tertiary level (see Figure 5). The share even exceeded two thirds in six countries: 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 EU country and only 11 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 2016, 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 2016 (see Figure 6). 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 Italy (where self-employment in cultural jobs reached 64 %), and the United Kingdom (61 %).

This contrasts with countries where self-employment among artists and writers accounted for less than 30 % (Denmark and Greece). Greece is the only country where the share of self-employment in the total working population (30 %, the highest in Europe) lay above the share observed in the cultural occupations (25 %).

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, 71 % 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 2). Countries where artists and writers reported a full-time job more often than the total workforce are very rare (Estonia, Luxembourg, Romania and the EFTA country Iceland). Rather, as a rule artists and writers proportionally less often held full-time positions. Sometimes, the difference is very large as in Latvia (69 % of full-time artists and writers, against 91 % in overall employment) or Finland (66 %, as opposed to 84 % in overall employment). The Netherlands is the only EU country where fewer than half of artists and writers worked full-time (48 %). Part-time work was indeed more widespread here than in other countries (50 % in total employment).

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 2 shows the percentage of employed people with only one job. EU-wide, 96 % of employed people held one job in 2016, while the figure was 89 % for artists and writers. Except in Cyprus 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 77 % of artists and writers had only one job, against 95 % in the whole workforce) and France (79 %, by comparison with 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 2016, while the figure was just 78 % for artists and writers. This discrepancy was particularly visible in France, where only 56 % 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 Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary and Romania (95 % or more get a secured 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 7):

  • 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 tables below list ISCO and NACE codes taken into account when calculating cultural employment from the EU-LFS. They refer to the scope as slightly revised in 2016, following the decision of the 'Culture Statistics' Working Group.

Cultural sectors (economic activities) - NACE Rev. 2

18 Printing and reproduction of recorded media
322 Manufacture of musical instruments
581 Publishing of books, periodicals and other publishing activities
59 Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing activities
60 Programming and broadcasting activities
741 Specialised design activities
742 Photographic activities
743 Translation and interpretation activities
90 Creative, arts and entertainment activities
91 Libraries, archives, museums and other cultural activities

Cultural occupations - ISCO-08

216 Architects, planners, surveyors and designers
2353 Other language teachers
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 some economic activities and occupations which 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, is 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 total employment and inform about main characteristics of cultural employment, based on the variables like age, sex and educational attainment.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Data visualisation



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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