Culture statistics - cultural employment

Data extracted in December 2018.

Planned article update: January 2020.

Around 8.7 million people in cultural employment across the EU (3.8 % of total employment)

In nearly all EU countries, jobs in cultural field are held predominantly by people with tertiary education in 2017.

In 2017, the percentage of self-employed in cultural employment in the EU is at least a double of that observed in total employment.

Cultural employment, 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). 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').

'Cultural employment' includes all persons working in an economic sector defined as ‘cultural’, irrespective of whether they are employed in a cultural occupation. In addition, all persons with 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 (and over time) and presenting it in the light of socio-economic variables used in the EU-LFS such as age, sex, educational attainment, professional status and full-time/part-time distinction. Additionally, there is a short section devoted to the characteristics of employment of artists and writers.

Full article

Cultural employment — general trends

Around 8.7 million people in cultural employment across the EU (3.8 % 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 2017 around 8.7 million people in the EU were working in a cultural sector or occupation, that is, 3.8 % of the total number of people in employment (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Cultural employment, 2017
(% of total employment)
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex)

There was a small but steady increase in the number of people working in culture between 2012 and 2017 (see Table 1). In 2017 there were 544 000 more (+ 6.7 %) cultural jobs in the EU than in 2012, showing an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of + 1.3 %. However, no increase was observed in relative terms. In 2017 the cultural ratio remained at the same level as in 2012 — 3.8 % of total employment. That means that cultural employment grew at the same pace as total employment.

Table 1: Cultural employment, 2012 and 2017
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex)

In individual countries, the percentage of people employed in culture in 2017 varied from 1.6 % in Romania to over 5 % in Estonia (see Figure 1 and Table 1). The EFTA countries (Iceland, Switzerland and Norway) all had percentages above the EU average, while the candidate countries (Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey) had shares below the EU average.

The evolution of the share of cultural employment in the total employment between 2012 and 2017 varied among EU Member States. While in the majority of countries the slight increase or stagnation of this percentage was observed, in some others a slight decrease was noticed (in Luxembourg, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Hungary and Finland). With around 155 000 more cultural jobs in 2017 than in 2012, the United Kingdom accounted for almost 30 % of the total increase in cultural employment in the EU, followed by the contribution of Spain (22 %). Spain was the country with the largest relative increase in the share of cultural employment, by 0.5 percentage point (from 3.1 % to 3.6 % of total employment).

Cultural employment by sex, age and educational attainment

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 2017 (54 %) — see Figure 2. Their share in cultural employment was also higher than women’s, at 54 %, mirroring the overall ratio.

Figure 2: Women in cultural employment and in total employment, 2017
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_egan) and (cult_emp_sex)

However, when analysing the women’s participation by country, cultural employment sometimes appears to count relatively more women than total employed population. In 2017, women were in majority in cultural employment in 10 countries, against only 2 countries in total employment. For instance, in Baltic states, the share of women in cultural employment stood at a 60 %, the rate not reached in any other country in total labour force. In 7 other countries, even if in cultural field men accounted for bigger proportions, women were still over-represented compared to their presence in the whole labour market.

There are also examples of reverse situation. In four Member States (Spain, Malta, Portugal and the United Kingdom), not only were women’s shares in cultural employment among the lowest recorded in the EU (lower than 45 %), but comparison with total working population figures also shows that women were under-represented in culture. For example, in the United Kingdom, while women’s share in the total labour market stood at 47 %, it was even lower in the cultural sectors and occupations (at 43 %). In Greece and Italy, shares as low as 44 % in cultural employment were slightly higher than those observed in total employment (42 % of women).

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

In the EU overall, 1.6 million people aged between 15 and 29 were working in the cultural field in 2017. This represented 18 % of all cultural jobs and was very close to this age group’s share in overall employment (19 %) (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Persons aged 15–29 in cultural employment and in total employment, 2017
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_egan) and (cult_emp_age)

At Member State level, the proportion of young people in cultural employment varied by a factor of two, from 12 % in Italy to 25 % in the Netherlands and Latvia. In 18 Member States, the young (15–29-year-olds) were in general represented in the cultural field to the extent they are in total employment (equal or less than 2 percentage point difference). In three other Member States (Cyprus, Latvia and Portugal), they were over-represented in cultural employment compared to total employment (Latvia recording the highest difference of 7 percentage points). In the remaining seven EU countries, the opposite pattern was recorded, especially in Luxembourg where only 13 % of people in cultural employment were aged 15-29 (compared to 19 % in total employment).

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

In 2017, almost 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).

Figure 4: Persons in cultural employment by educational attainment level, 2017
Source: Eurostat, (cult_emp_edu)

The share of people with tertiary education working in culture (59 %) was almost double that in total employment (34 %), representing a difference of 25 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.).

Figure 5: Persons with tertiary educational attainment in cultural employment and in total employment, 2017
Source: Eurostat, (cult_emp_edu) and (cult_emp_artpc)

In 2017, at least a half of people working in culture in 25 EU Member States were educated to tertiary level (see Figure 5). This share even exceeded two thirds in four countries: Cyprus, Ireland, Belgium and Spain. This is very different from the situation in overall employment, where the share of 50 % was only reached by Ireland and only 9 other Member States displayed a share above 40 %.

Some other characteristics of cultural jobs

The Eurostat database presents also some other characteristics of the cultural jobs, using the variables on: self-employment, full-time employment, holding one job only, and — for employees — permanent status of their contract. This part of the article article focuses on two of them: self-employment and full-time work.


Among the labour characteristics available for analysis, self-employment gave the most contrasted figures for cultural employment as compared to total employment. At EU level in 2017, one third of cultural workers were self-employed (33 %), against 15 % observed for total employment (see Figure 6). In other words: in the cultural field, the share of self-employed is over twice as much as in the total employment.

Figure 6: Self-employment in cultural employment and in total employment, 2017
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_eftpt) and (cult_emp_wsta)

The over-representation of self-employed workers in the cultural field was particularly salient in Germany where 33 % of cultural workers were self-employed, against only 10 % in the overall employment. This factor three was nearly reached also in the Netherlands where 16% of the total population in employment was self-employed, against 47 % in cultural employment. This share of cultural self-employed in the Netherlands was the highest in the European Union, followed by the one observed in Italy where 46 % of cultural workers were self-employed. On the other side, self-employed people accounted for less than 20 % in Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Croatia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Romania. Romania was the only country where the share of self-employed was higher in total employment.

Full-time work

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. The share of full-time cultural workers varied hugely across the European Union in 2017, from below 50 % in the Netherlands to over 95 % in Bulgaria and Romania. Although less remarkable than for self-employment, the full-time status' gap between cultural and total employment was not insignificant: in the EU in 2017, 75 % of cultural workers were employed full-time, to be compared with 80 % in total employment (see Table 2). The gap was more contrasted for men (8 percentage points difference: 82 % full-time in cultural employment versus 90 % in total employment) while percentage for women were similar on that criterion (67 % full-time in cultural employment against 68 % in the overall employment). In other words, the gender difference observed for the total employment is reduced (but not annihilated) when considering the cultural employment.

Table 2: Full-time rate by sex, in cultural and in total employment, 2017
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_epgaed) and (cult_emp_wsta)

The gender gap regarding the full-time status in cultural employment was especially marked in Germany, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria and the United Kingdom (over 20 percentage points difference in favour of men). Except Malta, all those countries also exhibited important gender differences in the total employment full-time rates. That said the gender gap in full-time employment in favor of men was not generalised throughout the European Union. In some Member States the reverse pattern was recorded — in Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania and Romania, more women than men have full-time jobs. However, in these countries the gap in favour of women was low (with maximum 5 percentage points difference), and reflected total employment figures where both genders present similar full-time rates.

Focus on artists and writers

This section presents some characteristics of employment in 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 over 2 million of them EU-wide in 2017, accounting for 23 % 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 2017 (see Figure 7). This percentage is much higher than that reported in total employment (15 %) and above that observed in the whole cultural employment (33 %). The substantial difference is largely due to the weight of countries such as the Netherlands (where self-employment among artists and writers reached 64 %), Italy (63 %), the United Kingdom (60 %) and Germany (52 %). This contrasts with countries where self-employment among artists and writers accounted for less than 30 % (case of Denmark, Belgium and Greece, and some other countries with low reliability of data). 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 among artists and writers (22 %).

Figure 7: Share of self-employed among 'creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists', compared with total employment, 2017
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_esgan) and (cult_emp_artpc)

As regards time spent at work, in the EU, 70 % of artists and writers said they had a full-time job (see Table 3), which is lower than the corresponding proportion of cultural employment (75 %, see Table 2) or in the total employment (80 %). Countries where artists and writers reported a full-time job more often than the total employment are very rare and the difference is tiny (Denmark and Romania). Rather, as a rule artists and writers proportionally less often held full-time positions. Sometimes, the difference is very large as in Latvia (73 % of full-time artists and writers, against 92 % in overall employment), Malta (65 %, as opposed to 86 % in overall employment) or Finland (62 %, against 84 %). The Netherlands is the only EU country where fewer than half of artists and writers worked full-time (43 %). Part-time work was indeed more widespread here than in other countries (49 % of total employment).

Table 3: Employment characteristics of 'creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists' (ISCO 264-265), compared with total employment, 2017
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_e2gps) and (cult_emp_artpc)

Part-time employment may lead workers to consider getting a second job - they 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 2017, while the figure was 90 % for artists and writers. Except in Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Romania, artists and writers were less likely than other workers to have only one job. The biggest differences were recorded in Finland (where only 81 % of artists and writers had only one job, against 94 % in the total employment), the Netherlands (81 % against 92 %), France (85 %, by comparison with 95 %) and Slovakia (87 % against 99 %).

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 2017, while the figure was just 77 % for artists and writers. This discrepancy was particularly visible in France, where only 55 % of artists and writers working as employees had a permanent contract, as opposed to 83 % of the total population of employees, and in Portugal (51 % against 78 %). The situation was more favourable for artists and writers working as employees in Bulgaria, Estonia, Malta and Romania (95 % or more get a secured contract).

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

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 8):

  • 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).

Figure 8: Definition of the scope of cultural employment: examples
Source: ESSnet-Culture final report (2012)

Eurostat’s statistics on cultural employment come from the EU Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS). Eurostat compiles data on economic activity and occupation of the employed person 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 social 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) and Work Plan for Culture (2019–2022) . This last Work Plan, adopted by EU Culture Ministers in November 2018, sets out the main priorities for European cooperation in cultural policy-making: sustainability in cultural heritage, cohesion and well-being, 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 are the basis of sound cultural policy-making, is a cross-sectorial priority of these Work Plans.

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.

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