Culture statistics - frequency and obstacles in participation
Data extracted in September 2017
No planned article update since data are based on an ad-hoc module
Around one third (35 %) of EU citizens practised one or more artistic activities in 2015.
Cultural participation has a significant impact on people’s quality of life, contributes greatly to their well-being and helps them integrate into society. As a statistical domain, it is an essential dimension of the European framework for culture statistics.
The statistics in this article reflect the extent to which Europeans attend or actively take part in cultural activities. Attendance covers three types of activity: going to the cinema, attending live performances and visiting cultural sites. Live performances include shows and other public performances by professionals or amateurs, but exclude active participation. Active cultural participation refers to artistic pursuits such as playing an instrument, dancing, acting or painting.
This analysis is based on 2015 data from the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) ad-hoc module on social and cultural participation.
Cultural participation – attending cultural events or visiting cultural sites
In 2015, 64 % of Europeans took part in at least one cultural activity
The 2015 EU-SILC ad-hoc module on social and cultural participation devoted three questions about people’s cultural participation as spectators. They covered going to the cinema, attending live performances and visiting cultural sites.
Taking all three activities together (i.e. participation in at least one), almost two thirds (64 %) of people aged 16 and over across the EU had been to the cinema, a life performance or a cultural site in the previous 12 months (see Table 1).
Taking them separately, 46 % of people had been to the cinema, 43 % attended live performances and the same share visited cultural sites (see Figure 1).
Although attendance rates for the three types of cultural activity appear similar, national patterns differ:
- Attending live performances was the most popular activity in 13 of the 28 EU Member States. In 12 Member States more than half of people had been to a spectacle, with Finland registering the highest share (67 %), followed by figures close to 60 % in seven other EU member States.
- Going to the cinema was the most common cultural activity in nine EU Member States, with more than half of people in eight of them. In Denmark, Sweden and the EFTA countries, this share exceeded 60 % .
- Visiting cultural sites was the least common activity but headed among the three types of cultural participation in six countries. It was particularly popular in Sweden (reported by 67 % of people) and also in Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark (61 % in each country).
A general trend towards higher cultural participation (more than 50 % for each activity) was observed in the Nordic countries, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The difference in participation between the most and least popular cultural activity was greater than 15 percentage points in seven EU countries. The largest gap in preferences was in Lithuania, where 57 % of people went to live performances, compared with 31 % who visited cultural sites.
The Benelux countries reported more than 20 % of people participating at least four times a year in all three cultural activities
To measure the frequency of cultural participation, two cut-off points were used in the survey. At one end ‘once in the last 12 months’ separated participants from non-participants; at the other end ‘at least four times’ pinpointed people going to cultural events more often.
In the EU as a whole, in 2015, almost a third of people said they had been to the cinema, a live performance or a cultural site up to three times. Specifically, cinema and cultural sites attracted 28 % of people, and live performances 29 %. Denmark had the highest percentage of people participating in all three cultural activities up to three times a year (45 % going to the cinema, 46 % attending live performances and 47 % visiting cultural sites). At the other end of the scale, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia reported the smallest shares (around half the EU average).
Table 2 clearly shows that in many EU Member States the shares of frequent spectators at cultural events (attending at least four times a year) were in general at least half the shares of occasional visitors (attending once to three times). This pattern is particularely visible for attending live performances and visiting cultural sites.
The cinema was the most popular attraction for people going to cultural events ‘frequently’ (at least four times a year), scoring 18 % in the EU as a whole. The share of frequent attendees at live performances was 14 % and at cultural sites 16 %. France recorded the largest share of frequent cinema-goers (29 %), followed by Luxembourg. Slovenia and Luxembourg ranked highest for people going frequently to concerts, operas and dance performances, with over 25 %. In five EU Member States (Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom) more than a quarter of people also said they had visited frequently monuments, museums or art galleries (see Figure 2).
Frequent participation in all three types of cultural activity was generally high (more than 20 %) in the Benelux countries (although they were not the best performers in the separate categories). At the other end of the scale, Bulgaria, Greece, Poland and Romania had the lowest shares of frequent attendees at cultural activities. In Greece, only 2 % of people were frequent visitors to cultural sites, as against a 16 % EU average. Poland recorded the lowest share of people going often to live performances (4 %, compared with a 14 % EU average).
Among frequent spectators, Slovenia was the country with the widest gap between cultural activities, reporting very high levels for frequent visitors to concerts (28 %) and cultural sites (26 %), contrasting with a rather low figure for regular cinema-goers (12 %).
Main reasons for not participating in cultural activities
Similar reasons given for not attending all three cultural activities
In the 2015 EU-SILC ad-hoc module, interviewees were asked about the reason for not participating in cultural activities. They were given a choice of four:
- financial reasons (‘I cannot afford it’);
- lack of interest;
- lack of proximity (‘nothing in the neighbourhood’, e.g. no cinema or museum nearby) and
- other reasons.
The indicators in this section concern only those people not participating in cultural activities (the four figures add up to 100 %).
For those who mentioned lack of proximity, it is important to specify that ‘nearby’ is understood as covering not only physical distance, but accessibility as well. If, for example, the museum is easily accessible by public transport, despite being quite far away from a person’s home, it should be considered as being nearby.
Figure 3 shows the distribution, by chosen reason, of the non-participants from 28 EU Member States in all three cultural activities. It seems that all cultural activities are quite accessible, as no more than 10 % of non-participants mentioned a lack of activities in the neighbourhood as the main reason for non-participation. Financial reasons were not preponderant as they were pointed to by less than a fifth of those not going to the cinema and a live performance, and by less than a sixth of those who did not visit cultural sites. Most non-participants indicated a lack of interest and 'other reasons' as the main obstacles to their taking part in cultural activities. 'Other reasons' can include for example a lack of time, family responsibilities or alternative channels of access to cultural content (TV, DVD, streaming, etc.).
Live performances appear to be the most expensive activity
The 2015 data revealed financial reasons for non-participation in cultural activities to be less important than perhaps expected: they were indicated as the main reason by less than 20 % of not-participating people across the EU and ranked third out of four.
Taking financial reasons as one of the barriers to accessing culture, the data indicate that of the three cultural activities in question, live performances appeared the most expensive, both in the EU as a whole and in most EU Member States (20 in all). Although 18 % of non-participants in life performances mentioned financial reasons, in almost half countries (13) this percentage was higher – especially in Lithuania and Greece, where financial reasons accounted for 38 % and 34 % of non-participants respectively (see Figure 4).
In Spain, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Belgium, France and Malta, financial reasons were mentioned the most by people not going to the cinema. Overall in the EU, 17 % of respondents who did not go to the cinema declared finance as the main barrier. In ten EU countries the share was above the EU average; Greece and Spain came top of the list, with almost 28 %.
Slovenia was the only country in which costs of visiting cultural sites seemed to be the most important barrier, among all three activities. Here almost a quarter of the non-participants mentioned it; this figure was 9 percentage points above the EU average of 15 %.
In Malta, Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden and Croatia money seems not to have had a big impact on cultural participation: in these countries financial reasons accounted for less than 9 % of responses for all three cultural activities.
Two thirds of non-visits to cultural sites explained by lack of interest in the Netherlands, Greece and Ireland
Almost 40 % of non-participation in all three cultural activities in the EU overall (see Figure 5) was explained by a lack of interest. Comparing the three cultural activities, people appeared to be least interested in visiting cultural sites (in 15 out of 28 Member States). In eight EU countries more than half of non-participants mentioned a lack of interest as the main reason for not visiting museums, art galleries or historical monuments.
Over half of those not participating in the Netherlands, Greece, Ireland, Austria, Malta and Sweden expressed no interest in taking part in any of the three cultural activities; the figure exceeded 66 % for cultural sites in the Netherlands, Greece and Ireland. At the other end of the scale, in Lithuania, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Spain and Latvia less than a third of non-participation in different cultural activities could be explained by a lack of interest.
Around a quarter of non-participants in Romania, Latvia and Lithuania did not go to the cinema because there were none nearby
Although the EU-wide figure came to 9 %, the share of non-participants giving a lack of proximity as the main reason for not going to the cinema varied widely across EU Member States: from less than 1 % in Malta to over 29 % in Romania (see Figure 6). This reason was the one most often quoted for not going to the cinema as compared to the other two cultural activities in 16 Member States and scored very high also in Latvia (27 %) and Lithuania (23 %). In these two countries the gap between the cinema and the other two activities was particularly visible compared to other EU countries, at around 20 percentage points.
In Romania, the lack of proximity was an important reason for not attending live performances (24 %). For cultural sites the pattern was similar, with Romania on top (22 %), followed at a distance by Finland and Sweden (around 14 %) and the remaining countries (less than 10 %).
On the other hand, less than 5 % of non-participants in each cultural activity who pointed to proximity as a main issue were in Malta, Belgium, Cyprus, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Practice of artistic activities
Around one third (35 %) of EU citizens practice one or more artistic activities
In the 2015 ad-hoc module on social and cultural participation, Europeans were asked also about their ‘active’ cultural pursuits: playing a musical instrument, composing music, singing, dancing, acting, photography/film-making, drawing, painting, sculpture, other visual arts/handcrafts, writing poems/short stories/fiction, etc.
More than a third (35 %) of Europeans usually pursued one or more artistic activities at least once a year. Nearly a fifth (18 %) of people in the 28 EU countries were usually involved in artistic activities every week (including daily practice). Unfortunately, the share of people not at all involved in any artistic activities was three times higher – two thirds of Europeans (see Figure 7).
In Austria, Denmark, Germany and Finland, from 50 % to 70 % of people reported performing artistic activities at least once a year (see Table 3).
On the other hand, in several countries – Romania, Portugal, Croatia, Bulgaria, France, Belgium and Cyprus – more than four in every five people did not pursue any artistic activities at all.
Over half of people in Finland and Germany pursued their artistic hobby at least once a month
Finland and Germany were the countries in which over 55 % of people usually pursued artistic activities at least once a month (see Figure 8). Austria and Denmark also fared relatively well, scoring more than 40 %.
The figures also indicated that almost a third of people (28-30 %) in Germany, Austria, Malta and the Netherlands pursued various activities weekly (or even daily). The best-performing EU country here was Finland, with 38 % of people devoting their time to artistic activities at least once in the week. Conversely, Romania was situated at the right-hand side of the chart, with 1 % of people pursuing an activity weekly and 6 % monthly.
Table 3 shows that in Finland, Malta and Denmark at least 10 % of people said they pursued their artistic hobby (or hobbies) every day.
Source data for tables and graphs
The data analysis in the present article is based on data from the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) ad hoc module on social and cultural participation. The survey was carried out in 2015 in all 28 EU Member States, EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The survey targeted all people aged 16 and over. The reference period was the previous 12 months for participation in cultural activities and the usual practice for the artistic activities. For the first time the module explored the reasons for non-participation in culture.
This article covers the following cultural activities:
- going to the cinema (i.e. film screenings at motion-picture theatres);
- attending live performances (plays, concerts, operas, ballet and dance);
- visiting cultural sites (historical monuments, museums, art galleries or archaeological sites) and
- practicing of artistic activities (such as: playing an instrument, composing music, singing, dancing, acting, photography/film-making, drawing, painting, sculpture, other visual arts/handcrafts, writing poems/short stories/fiction, etc.).
Live performances include shows and other public performances by professionals or amateurs (including children), but exclude active participation.
In recent years, cultural participation was analysed using data from the specific module of the 2011 Adult Education Survey (see, for instance, the 2016 Eurostat publication, Culture statistics). As this module was optional, data were not available for all EU countries and only people aged 25-64 were covered.
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. Its cultural and creative sectors are a driver for economic growth, job creation and external trade.
That is why culture at EU level is becoming increasingly important. Article 167 of the Lisbon Treaty states that the EU should ‘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 and a number of policy measures set out in the European Council Work Plan for Culture (2015–2018). EU culture ministers adopted the plan in December 2014. It sets out the main priorities for European cooperation in cultural policymaking. These are:
- encouraging inclusive and accessible culture;
- promoting cultural heritage;
- helping the cultural and creative sectors to flourish and
- promoting cultural diversity and culture in EU external relations.
Producing reliable, comparable and up-to-date culture statistics, as the basis for sound cultural policymaking, is another cross-sectoral priority in the Work Plan.
Eurostat compiles culture statistics from several EU-wide data collections to provide policymakers and other users with information on the main trends in employment, business, international trade, participation and consumption patterns in the field of culture.
The 2015 EU-SILC ad-hoc module on cultural participation provided a good insight into European cultural habits.
- Culture (articles on culture)
- EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) ad-hoc modules
- Culture (cult)
- Cultural participation (cult_pcs)
- Participation in cultural activities — EU-SILC survey (cult_pcs_ilc)
- Frequency of participation in cultural or sport activities in the last 12 months by sex, age, educational attainment level and activity type (ilc_scp03)
- Frequency of participation in cultural or sport activities in the last 12 months by income quintile, household type, degree of urbanisation and activity type (ilc_scp04)
- Reasons of non-participation in cultural or sport activities in the last 12 months by sex, age, educational attainment level and activity type (ilc_scp05)
- Reasons of non-participation in cultural or sport activities in the last 12 months by income quintile, household type, degree of urbanisation and activity type (ilc_scp06)
- Frequency of practicing of artistic activities by sex, age and educational attainment level (ilc_scp07)
- Frequency of practicing of artistic activities by income quintile, household type and degree of urbanisation (ilc_scp08)
- Participation in cultural activities — EU-SILC survey (cult_pcs_ilc)
- Cultural participation (cult_pcs)
- European statistical system network on culture (ESSnet-Culture final report (2012))
- 2015 EU-SILC ad-hoc module target variables
- 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)
- Regulation (EU) No 1295/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing the Creative Europe Programme (2014–2020)