Culture statistics - cultural employment
Data extracted in May 2021.
Planned article update: July 2022.
In 2020, there were 7.2 million people in cultural employment across the EU (3.6% of total employment).
In 2020, in all but one of the EU Member States, most people in cultural employment had a tertiary level of educational attainment.
In 2020, the proportion of people who were self-employed in the field of culture in the EU was more than double the average observed for the whole economy.
Cultural employment, 2020
The statistics presented are based on a methodology proposed in the ESSnet-Culture final report (2012). Cultural employment includes all persons working in economic activities that are deemed cultural, irrespective of whether the person is employed in a cultural occupation. It also covers persons with a cultural occupation, irrespective of whether they are employed in a cultural economic activity.
Cultural employment is defined in terms of the statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE Rev. 2) and by the international standard classification of occupations (ISCO). A full list of the economic activities and occupations used to define cultural employment is provided below in the Data sources section.
Cultural employment — overall developments
This article seeks to provide an overview of developments in cultural employment and information on the relative weight of cultural employment in total employment. The analysis is subsequently extended by looking in more detail at various socioeconomic breakdowns: by age, sex, level of educational attainment, professional status and working time (full-time/part-time). The article closes with a special focus on the employment characteristics of creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists.
Across the EU, there were 7.2 million people in cultural employment in 2020 - 3.6 % of the total employment
In 2020, shares of cultural employment in total employment varied among EU Member States from 1.4 % in Romania to over 5 percent in Estonia (5.2 %), Slovenia and Finland (both 5.1 %) (see Figure 1). The EFTA countries of Iceland, Switzerland and Norway each recorded shares of cultural employment that were above the EU average (3.6 %), while all the candidate countries for which data are available — Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey — recorded shares of cultural employment below this value.
In 2020, there were 7.2 million people in cultural employment, 333 000 more than in 2015, equivalent to an overall increase of 5 %. In relative terms - cultural employment represented 3.6 % of total employment both in 2015 and in 2020 (see Table 1).
The share of cultural employment in total employment increased between 2015 and 2020 in a majority of the EU Member States: the largest relative increase was recorded for Slovenia, by 0.6 percentage points - from 4.5 % to 5.1 % and for Belgium and Croatia (by 0.5 p.p. for both countries).
In comparison with 2019, in 2020 (with Covid-19 pandemia), the cultural employment in the EU decreased by 195 000 persons. It was a fall of 2.6 % compared with 1.3 % reported for the total employment.
The highest decreases were observed in the sectors of 'Creative, arts and entertainment activities' (NACE 90) and 'Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing activities (NACE 59) - please see Figure 2.
Cultural employment by sex, age and educational attainment
The highest proportion of women in cultural employment was recorded in the Baltic Member States
Increasing female labour participation is one of the policy objectives of the European Commission committed to promoting gender equality in the labour market through a mix of legislation, policy guidance and financial support. In 2020, women accounted for a slightly lower share of EU cultural employment than men (48.1 %, see Figure 3). This proportion, however, was higher than the average share of women in employment across the whole of the economy (46.0 %).
The situation was somewhat different among the EU Member States. In 2020, women accounted for a majority of cultural employment in 15 Member States. The Baltic Member States recorded the highest female shares of cultural employment, with a peak of 62 % in Latvia, followed by 60 % in Lithuania and Estonia; Luxembourg, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal, Czechia, Croatia, Slovakia and Greece were the other Member States where women occupied a majority of cultural employment. At the other end of the range, the share of women in cultural employment was lowest in Italy (43 %) and Malta (36 %).
In comparison with the total employment, it was common to find that women accounted for a higher share of cultural employment than their share across the whole economy. This was true in 2020 in all but five of the EU Member States, with women accounting for a much higher proportion of cultural employment — over 10 p.p. more than their overall share of total employment — in the three Baltic Member States and Romania. By contrast, the female share of cultural employment was notably lower than the overall share of women in total employment in Malta (5 percentage points less) and Belgium (3 percentage points less).
The share of young workforce (15-29 years-old) in cultural employment varies considerably between the EU Member States
Across the EU, 1.2 million young people (aged 15 to 29 years) were working in the field of culture in 2020. They represented 16.4 % of cultural employment, a proportion slightly lower than the average share of all young people working in the whole economy (16.8 %) — see Figure 4.
In most Member States, the percentage of young employed people did not exceed 20 % of the overall cultural employment. This share varied from 10 % in Italy, up to 21 % in the Netherlands, and 24 % in Malta.
Young people accounted for a higher share of cultural employment than their share of the total employment in eight of the EU Member States. The biggest difference was recorded in Bulgaria, where the share of young people in cultural employment was almost 4 percentage points higher than the average share of young people in total employment. By contrast, young people were relatively under-represented in terms of their share of cultural employment in Sweden and the Netherlands (4 p.p. lower than in total employment) and Croatia (6 p.p. lower).
People with a tertiary level of educational attainment made up a majority of the cultural workforce
In 2020, almost three fifths (59 %) of the EU workforce in the field of culture had a tertiary level of educational attainment (as defined by the international standard classification of education (ISCED) levels 5-8), while only 8 % completed at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment (ISCED levels 0-2). One third (33 %) of the EU cultural workforce had an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary level of educational attainment (ISCED levels 3-4) — see Figure 5.
One of the most characteristic features of cultural employment is the high percentage of people with a tertiary level of educational attainment.
In 2020, the share of people in the EU working in the field of culture that had a tertiary level of educational attainment (59 %) was considerably higher than the average recorded for the whole economy (36 %) — see Figure 6. In 2020, more than half of all people in cultural employment in 26 of the EU Member States had a tertiary level of educational attainment; the only exception was Italy (46 %). Shares higher than 70 % were recorded in Luxembourg, Cyprus, Spain and Belgium (the share of people with a tertiary level of educational attainment in total employment in each of these countries did not exceed 50 %).
Some other characteristics of cultural employment
The EU-LFS also provides information on a range of socioeconomic characteristics that may be used to analyse cultural employment in more detail; this next section focuses on two specific areas, namely, self-employment and working time (full-time employment).
Aside from a high propensity to employ people with a high level of educational attainment, cultural employment is also characterised by a relatively high proportion of self-employment, reflecting the independent and specialised nature of many occupations in the cultural sector — for example, authors, performing artists, musicians, painters and sculptors, or crafts people.
Across the EU, one third (33 %) of the cultural workforce was self-employed in 2020, compared with an average of 14 % for the whole economy (see Figure 7); as such, the relative weight of self-employment in the field of culture was more than twice as high as the average for total employment.
In 2020, the self-employed accounted for almost half of all cultural employment in the Netherlands (47 %) and in Italy (46 %). Among the Member States with shares of cultural self-employment higher than the EU average (33 %), were also Czechia (39 %), Greece (38 %), Cyprus (37 %) and Spain (36 %). By contrast, less than one in five persons in cultural employment were self-employed in Bulgaria, Denmark and Estonia (each at 19 %), Luxembourg (16 %), Croatia and Romania (both 15 %, but note data are of low reliability for Croatia).
In some countries - Cyprus, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Austria and Germany (note the 2020 data for Germany are provisional and of low reliability) - the share of self-employed people working in the field of culture was at least 2.5 times as high as the average recorded for the whole economy. The level of self-employment in cultural employment was higher than the average level of self-employment in the whole economy in 26 of the 27 Member States. The only exception in 2020 was Romania, where self-employment in culture amounted to 15 %, while the average for the whole economy in this country was 17 %.
In 2020, three quarters (76 %) of the cultural workforce in the EU was employed on a full-time basis, while the share of full-time employment across the whole economy was higher - 81 %.
This is another specific feature of cultural employment - full-time work concerns fewer people than the average for the economy as a whole. Such a pattern has been observed in almost all Member States, with the exception of Romania and Belgium; in Slovakia, these proportions were the same (see Figure 8). The fact that the proportion of people working in the field of culture on a full-time basis was lower than the average share of full-time employment could be explained, at least in part, by a number of cultural jobs being characterised by self-employment/freelancing and job flexibility. This situation may result in job insecurity and considerable variations in income over time.
In 2020, the share of full-time employment in the cultural workforce varied considerably between the EU Member States, from 47 % in the Netherlands to 95 % in Bulgaria and Slovakia, and 97 % in Romania. This wide range reflects more general overall differences between national labour markets (importance of part-time work) rather than the specific nature of cultural employment. Despite the large discrepancies mentioned above, only in two Member States (Finland and Cyprus) was the gap in full-time work between cultural employment and total employment at least 10 percentage points.
In 2020, some 83 % of men in cultural employment worked on a full-time basis compared with an average of 91 % for the whole EU economy. By contrast, the share of women working on a full-time basis in the field of culture was 68 % compared with an average of 70 % for the whole EU economy.
In 2020, the average gender gap for full-time cultural employment in the EU - in favor of men - was 15 percentage points (the average for total employment in the European Union was 21 p.p.). The Member States with the largest gender gap (over 20 p.p.) were Malta, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands (see Figure 9). Romania was the only Member State in which more women than men were employed full-time in the cultural sector. A relatively small gender gap (in favour of men), reaching at most three percentage points, was also recorded for Bulgaria, Lithuania, Croatia, Portugal and Cyprus.
This final section presents information on the employment characteristics for two specific groups of cultural occupations (as distinguished in ISCO-08 classification): creative and performing artists (including visual artists, musicians, dancers, actors, film directors, and so on), and authors, journalists and linguists. These two groups of occupations are hereafter referred to as ’artists and writers’.
There were almost 1.7 million artists and writers in the EU in 2020, together they accounted for almost one quarter (23 %) of cultural employment. 46 % of all artists and writers in the EU were self-employed (see Figure 10). This percentage was much higher than the average for the whole economy (14 %), and higher than the average for cultural employment (33 %).
Self-employment among artists and writers was more common than average self-employment for the whole national economy in all EU Member States. In Germany (note data are provisional with low reliability), the share of artists and writers that were self-employed was more than five times as high as the national average for the whole economy; this relation was also high in Sweden (4.3 times as high), Hungary (4.2 times as high), and Ireland (4.1 times as high). 63 % of all artists and writers in the Netherlands were self-employed in 2020, and at least a half in the following countries: Italy (61 %), Ireland (58 %), Czechia (52 %), Hungary and Slovakia (50 %). By contrast, the lowest share of self-employed artists and writers was in Luxembourg (16 %, low reliability).
As shown in Table 2, some 71 % of artists and writers in the EU worked on a full-time basis in 2020, which was lower than the corresponding share of people working full-time in the field of culture (76 %) or across the whole economy (81 %).
The share of artists and writers working on a full-time basis was generally lower than the national average for total employment across the EU Member States. The only exceptions to this rule were Slovakia, where the percentage of full-time working artists and writers was slightly above the average for the whole economy, also Malta and Romania, where the working full-time indicator was at the same level for artists and writers, and for the total employment. For Latvia, Cyprus and Finland, the share of artists and writers working on a full-time basis was at least 20 percentage points lower than the national average. The lowest share of artists and writers working on a full-time basis was recorded in the Netherlands (41 %). This low share is the result of the specifics of that labour market - the average full-time employment for the whole Dutch economy was 48 % in 2020.
Aside from their main job, some artists and writers have a second job. Table 2 shows that across the EU, a very high majority (96 %) of the total workforce held a single job in 2020; this percentage was lower for artists and writers (90 %). Artists and writers were less likely (than the workforce as a whole) to have a single job and this pattern was repeated in the majority the EU Member States. The share of artists and writers who were single jobholders was more than 10 percentage points below the national average in Austria, Portugal, the Netherlands, Estonia and France.
A sign of the precarious nature of employment faced by artists and writers concerns the duration of their work contracts. In 2020, some 87 % of all employees in the EU had a permanent employment contract, while among artists and writers permanent a contract was held by three-quarters (75 %) of employees. A lower percentage of having a permanent employment contract among artists and writers than in the whole national economies was repeated in the majority of the EU Member States, apart from Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania, Czechia, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Malta (for Malta note low reliability of data).
In 2020, less than two-thirds of all artists and writers working as employees in Cyprus (64 %, low reliability), France (60 %) and Portugal (59 %) had a permanent contract. In all three countries listed above, there was also a large difference (more than 20 percentage points) when comparing the percentage of employees with a permanent contract noted for artists and writers with that for the whole national economy.
Source data for tables and graphs
The statistical concept of cultural employment is based on methodology proposed by the European Statistical System Network on Culture (see its ESSnet-Culture final report (2012)).
The report defines cultural employment by crossing economic activities (based on the statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE Rev. 2)) with a set of occupations (using the international standard classification of occupations (ISCO-08)).
Defining cultural employment
As the ESSnet-Culture report notes, cultural employment covers three types of situation (see Figure 11):
- an employed person holds a cultural occupation and works in the cultural sector (for example, a ballet dancer employed by a ballet company or a journalist working for a daily newspaper);
- an employed person holds a cultural occupation outside the cultural sector (for example, a designer who works in the motor vehicles industry);
- an employed person holds a non-cultural occupation in the cultural sector (for example, an accountant working in a publishing house).
Eurostat’s statistics on cultural employment are sourced from the EU’s labour force survey (EU-LFS); the population covered by this survey concerns people aged 15 years or more. Eurostat compiles data on cultural employment according to the field of economic activity in which the employed person works and according to their occupation, using a matrix to create an aggregate for all cultural employment. The data may be analysed at a more detailed level, for example, by looking at socioeconomic breakdowns by sex, by age or by level of educational attainment.
Two lists below include economic activities (NACE Rev. 2) and occupations (ISCO-08) that were used to calculate aggregates for cultural employment using data from the EU-LFS.
Cultural sectors (economic activities) — NACE Rev. 2
|18||Printing and reproduction of recorded media|
|32.2||Manufacture of musical instruments|
|58.1||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|
|74.1||Specialised design activities|
|74.3||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|
|3432||Interior designers and decorators|
|3433||Gallery, museum and library technicians|
|3435||Other artistic and cultural associate professionals|
|3521||Broadcasting and audio-visual technicians|
|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|
Statistics presented in this article are derived from the EU-LFS. This survey requires data to be provided for NACE divisions (two-digit level) and for ISCO minor groups (three-digit level). However, the majority of countries provide more detailed data on a voluntary basis. For countries missing information at NACE three-digit level or/and ISCO four-digits level, the estimation is done using coefficients calculated for countries providing the highest level of detail.
(Under)-estimating cultural employment
When estimating cultural employment, it is difficult to determine what proportion of some economic activities and occupations is genuinely cultural. For this reason, activities and occupations which are only partially cultural were excluded from the estimates. For example, sports, recreation and cultural centre managers (ISCO Unit Group 1431) refers to an occupation with a cultural component; however, it is impossible to estimate the share specifically relating to culture. Therefore, and taking a conservative approach, it was decided to exclude this occupation (and other similar cases) when computing an aggregate for cultural employment.
Moreover, the EU-LFS collects (detailed enough) information on the economic activity and occupation only of the respondent’s main job and therefore omits information pertaining to secondary jobs in the field of culture. As such, these secondary jobs are excluded from the aggregate covering cultural employment.
In view of these limitations and the approach adopted, data on cultural employment are likely to underestimate the true extent of employment in this field.
Within the context of the EU-LFS:
- an employee is defined as an individual who works for a public or private employer and who in return receives compensation in the form of wages, salaries, fees, gratuities, payment by results or payment in kind; professional military are included;
- self-employed persons are those who work in their own business, farm or professional practice, if he/she meets one of the following criteria: works for the purpose of earning profit; spends time on the operation of running a business; is in the process of setting up his/her business;
- part-time employment is that which is not full time — the distinction between full-time and part-time employment is generally based on a spontaneous response by the respondent (the main exceptions are the Netherlands and Iceland where a threshold of 35 hours is applied, Sweden where a threshold is applied to the self-employed, and Norway where respondents working between 32 and 36 hours are asked whether this is a full- or part-time position);
- temporary contracts (in contrast to fixed-term contracts) cover those employees with a post of limited duration (their contract will terminate either after a period fixed in advance, or after a period not known in advance, but nevertheless defined by objective criteria, such as the completion of an assignment or the period of absence of an employee being temporarily replaced) — fixed-term contracts do not apply to the self-employed.
Culture is one of Europe’s greatest assets: it is a source of values, identity and a sense of belonging; it also contributes towards well-being, social cohesion and inclusion. The cultural and creative sectors may also provide a stimulus for economic growth, job creation and international trade.
That is why culture is becoming increasingly important within the EU. 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) and the Work Plan for Culture (2019-2022). The latter, adopted by EU culture ministers in November 2018, sets out the main priorities for European cooperation in cultural policymaking: sustainability in cultural heritage; cohesion and well-being; an ecosystem supporting artists, cultural and creative professionals and European content; gender equality; and international cultural relations.
The production of reliable, comparable and up-to-date cultural statistics, which provide a basis for sound cultural policymaking, is a cross-sectorial priority in the latest work plan. Eurostat compiles culture statistics from several different data collections to provide policymakers and other users with information on the main developments in the field of culture, covering issues such as education, employment, business, international trade, participation and consumption patterns.
Direct access to
- Culture (all Statistics Explained articles on culture)
- Culture, see:
- 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)
- Cultural employment by sex and selected labour market characteristics (cult_emp_wsta)
- 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)
- Cultural employment (cult_emp)
- Labour market (labour), see:
- Employment and unemployment (Labour force survey) (employ)
- LFS series - detailed annual survey results (lfsa)
- Employment - LFS series (lfsa_emp)
- LFS series - detailed annual survey results (lfsa)
- Employment and unemployment (Labour force survey) (employ)
- European Council Work Plan for Culture (2019-2022)
- European Council Work Plan for Culture (2015-2018)
- Regulation (EU) No 1295/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing the Creative Europe programme (2014-2020)
- Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a European agenda for culture in a globalising world (COM(2007) 242)