Statistics Explained

Culture statistics - cultural employment

Data extracted in May 2022.

Planned article update: July 2023.


In 2021, there were 7.4 million people in cultural employment across the EU, 3.7% of total employment.

Between 2019 and 2021, the number of people employed in creative, artistic and entertainment jobs in the EU fell by over 100 000 (-10%).

In 2021, employment in the cultural sector recorded the smallest ever gender gap, with 3.76 million men and 3.60 million women employed.

[[File:Culture statistics - cultural employment September 2022.xlsx]]

Cultural employment, 2021

This article forms part of the online publication Culture statistics. It provides an overview of developments in cultural employment and information on cultural employment’s share of total employment. The data on cultural employment are derived from the EU’s labour force survey (EU-LFS).

The analysis looks in detail at cultural employment according to various socio-economic aspects: age, sex, level of educational attainment, professional status and whether full- or part-time. The article closes with a focus on the employment characteristics of creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists.

The statistics are based on a methodology proposed in the ESSnet-Culture final report (2012). Cultural employment includes everyone working in economic activities that are deemed cultural, whether or not the person is employed in a specifically cultural occupation. It also covers people with a cultural occupation, whether or not 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 classified as cultural employment is available below, in the section on data sources.

Full article

Cultural employment – developments between 2019 and 2021

In 2021, cultural employment involved 3.7 % of total employment in the EU, (equal to 7.4 million people), ranging from 1.4 % in Romania to 5.1 % in the Netherlands. Compared with 2019, cultural employment’s share of total employment increased in 12 countries, fell in 12, and remained the same in three others (the figures are available in the dynamic chart above). The largest increases were in Latvia (up 0.7 percentage points, p.p. – from 3.5 % to 4.2 %), Portugal (up by 0.5 p.p.) and Greece, Czechia and France (up by 0.4 p.p.). The largest falls were in Luxembourg and Malta (both down by 0.8 p.p.) and Finland (down by 0.5 p.p.).

Figure 1 below, with 2019, 2020 and 2021 data, shows that the percentage change of people employed in the cultural sector increased in 14 EU countries and fell in the other 13. Over the whole period (2019-2021), the biggest increases were recorded in Latvia (13.4 %), France (13.1 %), Portugal (12.1 %) and Greece (11.6 %). The biggest decreases were in Romania (-18.1 %), Malta (-10.5 %) and Luxembourg (-10.3 %).

The changes in cultural employment over this three-year period followed different patterns across Europe. For a first group of countries, the rate of cultural employment rose in both 2020 and 2021 (Latvia, France, Portugal, Czechia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Hungary and Lithuania). A second group of countries experienced a fall in cultural employment in 2020, followed in 2021 by a recovery or even a growth compared to 2019 levels (Greece, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Spain and Slovakia). Only in Slovenia and Croatia, in spite of the increase in 2020, did cultural employment in 2021 fall below the 2019 level. In Poland, Estonia, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Finland, Luxembourg, Malta and Romania, the cultural workers were below 2019 levels in both 2020 and 2021. Denmark recorded the same level of cultural employment in 2019 and 2020, with an increase in 2021.

Figure 1: Cultural employment changes by country in 2020 and in 2021 compared with 2019
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex)

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the total number of people employed in cultural professions in the EU fell significantly from 2019 to 2020, by about 222 000 people, equivalent to 3.0 %. In 2021, the overall number rose back to the 2019 value (see Table 1). At the EU aggregated level, this recovery is registered both in absolute numbers (the total number of people employed in the field) and in relative terms (cultural employment as a share of total employment). However, at country level the picture is different. The biggest increases in cultural employment between 2019 and 2021, expressed in absolute numbers, were recorded in France (up by 126 000 employees), the Netherlands (41 000) and Portugal (20 000). Conversely, the biggest falls were in Germany (down by 103 000 employees), Italy (63 000) and Romania (25 000).

Table 1: Cultural employment, 2019 to 2021
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex)

Figure 2 shows the employment trends over 10 years in selected NACE Rev. 2 cultural activities in the EU, for which the complete set of data is available. Significant drops in employment between 2019 and 2020 were observed in the sectors 'Creative, arts and entertainment activities' (NACE, R90), 'Printing and reproduction of recorded media activities’ (NACE, C18), 'Publishing activities' (NACE, J58), and 'Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing activities' (NACE, J59). The data for 2021 show that, after a temporary collapse in 2020, employment started to grow again in 'Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing activities' (NACE, J59) and in 'Publishing activities' (NACE, J58). Employment in 'Printing and reproduction of recorded media' activities (NACE, C18) continued a long-term downward trend. Moreover, employment in the 'Creative, arts and entertainment activities' (NACE, R90), after a long period of growth (lasting from 2013 to 2019, with the exception of 2018), fell significantly over the last two years. In absolute terms, between 2019 and 2021, the number of people in the EU employed in creative, artistic and entertainment activities fell by over 100 000 (from 1.05 million to 0.95 million), below the level of 2015.

Figure 2: Evolution of cultural employment by selected NACE Rev. 2 activities, EU, 2011-2021
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_n2)

Characteristics of cultural employment in 2021

Cultural employment by sex, age and educational attainment

In 2021, the socio-demographic profile of cultural employment in the EU did not differ much from that of total employment when broken down by sex and age of employees. However, the differences were significant when it came to levels of educational attainment.

Compared with the total employment, slightly more women were employed in the cultural field (48.9 % versus 46.1 %, respectively). Broken down by age, cultural employment was characterised by a slightly higher percentage of people aged 30-39 (24.9 % for cultural employment vs 23.2 % for total employment) and of those aged 65 and over (4.1 % against 2.6 % for total employment). There were fewer people in cultural employment compared with total employment in the age groups 50-64 (28.7 % vs 31.5 %) and 15-29 (16.6 % vs 17.0 %), but in general the differences are not remarkable. By contrast, at EU level, significant differences are observed according to the educational attainment levels (as defined by the international standard classification of education 0-ISCED). Among the people employed in cultural professions, 7.2 % had the lowest levels of educational attainment (ISCED 0-2), 32.2 % had upper secondary education (ISCED 3-4), and 60.4 % had tertiary education (ISCED 5-8). In total employment, these classes accounted, respectively, for 16.1 % , 47.1 % and 36.6 %, indicating a general higher level of educational attainment for the cultural field (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Cultural and total employment by sex, age and educational attainment, EU, 2021
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex), (lfsa_egan2), (cult_emp_age), (lfsa_egan), (cult_emp_edu) and (lfsa_egaed)

The share of women in cultural employment

Since 2011, the share of women in cultural employment has increased. In 2011, 3.63 million men and 3 million women were involved in culture related professional activities, with a gap of 0.63 million units. Ten years later the gender gap narrowed to 0.16 million, with 3.76 million men and 3.60 million women (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Evolution of cultural employment in the EU by sex, 2011-21
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_sex)

Although at EU level women accounted for a slightly lower share of cultural employment than men (48.9 %) in 2021, the picture varied somewhat between countries. There were more women than men in cultural employment in 14 countries, with the Baltic countries recording the highest shares of women: with a peak of 62.7 % in Estonia, followed by 60.7 % in Lithuania and 57.9 % in Latvia. The share of women in cultural employment was lowest in Italy (43.9 %) and Malta (30.3 %). The increasing proportion of women in cultural employment, with the consequent reduction in the gender gap, has been the most noticeable change in 2021 in the socio-demographic characteristics of cultural employment. For more detailed information on the characteristics of cultural and total employment broken down by sex, age and educational attainment, please refer to the Excel.jpg Cultural employment: tables and figures (these can be found in the shaded sheets at the end of the excel file).

Some other characteristics of cultural employment

The EU-LFS also provides information on additional socioeconomic characteristics that may be used to analyse cultural employment in more detail, including self-employment and working pattern (full-time and part-time employment).


Besides the high share of tertiary educated workers, cultural employment is also characterised by a relatively high proportion of self-employment. This reflects the independent and specialised nature of many occupations in the cultural sector — for example, authors, performing artists, musicians, painters and sculptors, or craftspeople.

In 2021, across the EU one-third (32 %) of the cultural workers were self-employed (compared with an average of 14 % in the whole economy). Self-employment accounted for almost half of all cultural employment in the Netherlands (47 %) and Italy (46 %). The other countries with rates of cultural self-employment higher than the EU level (33 %) were Greece (39 %), Czechia (38 %), Spain (35 %) and Slovakia (34 %). By contrast, fewer than one in five people in cultural employment were self-employed in Estonia and Lithuania (both 19 %) and Romania (13 %). The level of self-employment in the field of culture was higher than the level of self-employment in the whole workforce in all 27 EU countries.

Full-time work

In 2021, more than three quarters (77 %) of the cultural workers in the EU were employed on a full-time basis, four percentage points fewer than in the whole economy. This pattern can be seen in almost all EU countries, with the exception of Belgium, the Netherlands and Romania. The smaller proportion of people working full-time in culture-related professions could be explained, at least partly, by a number of cultural jobs being characterised by self-employment/freelancing and job flexibility. This situation may result, however, in job insecurity and considerable variations in income over time. The share of full-time employment in the cultural field varied considerably between countries, from 61 % in the Netherlands, to 95 % in Slovakia and 98 % in Romania. This wide range reflects more general differences between national labour markets (e.g. the importance of part-time work), rather than specific characteristics of cultural employment.

Permanent jobs and employment with one-job positions

For two other indicators – employees with permanent positions and single jobs – only four countries showed a significant difference (of more than five percentage points) between cultural and total employment.

Concerning permanent jobs, differences of more than five percentage points were recorded in Malta (where 85 % of workers in culture-related professions had a permanent contract, while the average for the overall employment was 92 %), Greece (81 % vs 90 %) and France (76 % vs 85 %, the definition differs). For employees with only one job, a difference of more than five percentage points was recorded only in Austria, where 89 % of people employed in cultural professions held only one post, while the value for the entire national economy was 95 % (see Table 2).

Table 2: Selected labour market characteristics of cultural employment and total employment, EU, 2021
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_wsta)

Focus on artists, authors, journalists and linguists

This final section presents information on the employment characteristics of two groups of cultural occupations (as distinguished in the ISCO-08 classification): creative and performing artists (including visual artists, musicians, dancers, actors, film directors, etc.) and authors, journalists and linguists. These two occupations are referred here as ’artists and writers’.

There were over 1.6 million artists and writers in the EU in 2021. Together they accounted for 22 % of cultural employment. About 46 % of all artists and writers in the EU were self-employed. This percentage was much higher than in the whole economy of the EU (14 %). In Germany (using provisional data), the share of artists and writers who were self-employed was more than five times higher than in the whole economy. This proportion was also high in Sweden (4.6 times higher), Cyprus and the Netherlands (4.5 times higher in both countries), and Ireland (4.3 times higher). In the Netherlands, 67 % of all artists and writers were self-employed in 2021, as were at least half in Italy (62 %), Ireland (56 %), Slovakia (55 %, low reliability of data), and Czechia (53 %).

In 2021, 74 % of artists and writers in the EU worked full-time, slightly less than in the total field of culture (77 %) or across the whole economy (81 %). The Netherlands and Belgium were the only countries where the percentage of artists and writers working full-time was above the rate for the whole economy.

In Greece and Cyprus, the share of artists and writers working full-time was at least 20 p.p. lower than the level of the national economy. Cyprus recorded the lowest share, with 60 % of artists and writers working full-time against the 89 % of the total economy.

A sign of the precarious nature of employment faced by artists and writers can be seen in the duration of their work contracts. In 2021, 86 % of all employees in the EU had a permanent employment contract, while among artists and writers a permanent contract was held by three-quarters (75 %) of employees. Compared with other employees, a lower percentage of artists and writers had a permanent contract in most EU countries, apart from Latvia (low reliability of data), Czechia, Romania, Croatia (low reliability), Luxembourg (low reliability) and Hungary. In 2021, less than two-thirds of all artists and writers working as employees in France (62 %) had a permanent contract. In both France and Malta there was a big difference (of at least 20 p.p.) between the percentage of people employed as artists and writers with a permanent contract and in the national total economy.

Beside their main job, some artists and writers have a second job. Across the EU, most people (96 %) in the overall employment held a single job in 2021. Artists and writers were less likely (91 %) to have just one job, and this pattern was repeated in all EU countries except Luxembourg. The share of artists and writers with just one job was more than ten percentage points below the level of the total economy in Malta, Austria, Portugal and Cyprus. In addition, with the lowest share among EU countries in 2021 (76 %), in Cyprus one artist or writer in four had more than one job.

Table 3: Characteristics of persons working as creative and performing artists, authors, journalists and linguists, 2021
(thousand, %)
Source: Eurostat (cult_emp_art) and (cult_emp_artpc)

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 Network on Culture (see the ESSnet-Culture final report (2012)).

The ESSnet-Culture 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 situations (see Figure 5):

  • 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).

Figure 5: Definition of the scope of cultural employment – examples
Source: ESSnet-Culture final report (2012);

Eurostat’s statistics on cultural employment are sourced from the EU-LFS; the population covered by this survey concerns people aged 15 and over. Eurostat compiles data on cultural employment according to the field of economic activity in which the employed person works and 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, broken down by sex, age or by the level of educational attainment.

The two lists below contain the economic activities (NACE Rev. 2) and occupations (ISCO-08) used to calculate aggregates for cultural employment 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
74.2 Photographic 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
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

The EU-LFS 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-digit level, the estimate is made using coefficients calculated for countries that provide the highest level of detail.

Estimating cultural employment

When estimating cultural employment, it is difficult to determine the proportion of some economic activities and occupations that 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 about secondary jobs (e.g. in the field of culture). Consequently, 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.

Time series

Regulation (EU) 2019/1700 came into force on 1 January 2021 and induced a break in the EU-LFS time series for several EU Member States. In order to monitor the evolution of employment and unemployment despite the break in the time series, Member States assessed the impact of the break in their country and computed impact factors or break corrected data for a set of indicators. Break corrected data are published for the LFS main indicators.

More information on the EU-LFS can be found via the online publication, which includes eight articles on the technical and methodological aspects of the survey. The EU-LFS methodology in force from the 2021 data collection onwards is described in methodology from 2021 onwards. Detailed information on coding lists, explanatory notes and classifications used over time can be found under documentation.


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 also provide a stimulus for economic growth, job creation and international trade.

This is why culture is becoming more important in the EU. Article 167 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union states that the EU ‘must 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 initiatives set out in the Work Plan for Culture (2015-2018) and the Work Plan for Culture (2019-2022). The 2019-2022 work plan, 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
  • 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-sectoral priority in the latest Work Plan for Culture. 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, and participation and consumption patterns.

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