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Almost half of artists and writers are self-employed

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. Eurostat compiles statistics on culture 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. If you don’t want to read all this stuff (about 200 pages), you can just read the most interesting.

As regards occupations, cultural jobs embrace such professions as writers, architects, musicians, journalists, actors, dancers, librarians, handicraft workers and graphic designers.

Taking the sector approach, cultural jobs relate to activities such as: ‘creative, arts and entertainment activities’, ‘libraries, archives, museums and other cultural activities’, ‘programming and broadcasting activities’, ‘motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing activities’ and ‘specialised design activities’. On the basis of this definition of ‘cultural employment’, 6.3 million people in the EU were working in a cultural sector or occupation in 2014, that is, 2.9% of the total number of people in employment.

Nearly half (49%) of all artists and writers in the EU were self-employed in 2014. This percentage is much higher than that reported in total employment (15%). The substantial difference is largely due to the weight of countries such as Germany (where self-employment in cultural jobs reached 55%), the United Kingdom and the Netherlands (both 65 %). This contrasts with countries where self-employment among artists and writers accounted for only around 20% (Croatia and Luxembourg). But even in those countries, the share of self-employment in these cultural occupations lay above the share in the total working population.

Time spent at work is an important determinant of the worker’s position in the labour market and, in most cases, of his or her financial resources. Full-time employment often comes with benefits that are not typically offered to part-timers. In the EU, 70% of artists and writers said they had a full-time job, which is lower than the corresponding proportion of the total workforce: 80%.

Countries where artists and writers reported a full-time job more often than the total workforce are very rare (Denmark, Luxembourg and the EFTA country Iceland). Rather, as a rule artists and writers proportionally less often held full-time positions, while the figures were sometimes far lower, as in Cyprus (64% of full-time artists and writers, against 86% in overall employment), Austria (56%, as opposed to 72% in the total workforce) and France (64% by comparison with 81%). The Netherlands is the only EU country where fewer than half of artists and writers worked full-time (42%). Part-time work was indeed more widespread here than in other countries (50%).

Part-time employment may lead workers to consider getting a second job. ‘Full-time part-timers’ sometimes seek to complement their main part-time job with another part-time occupation, to increase income. Holding a second job may thus be an indication of (self-perceived) precarious employment. However, there are various reasons for holding multiple jobs. In particular, people working simultaneously in their own professional practice (self-employed) and for a public or private employer are also considered to hold two jobs. A self-employed person owning two businesses also enters into that category.

EU-wide, 96% of employed people held one job, while the figure was 90% for artists and writers. With notable exceptions in Greece, Malta and Romania, artists and writers were less likely than other workers to have only one job. The biggest differences were recorded in Estonia (where only 77% of artists and writers had only one job, against 95% in the whole workforce), France (82%, by comparison with 96%) and the Netherlands (79% versus 92%).

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 2014, while the figure was just 76% for artists and writers. This discrepancy was particularly visible in France, where only 56% of artists and writers had a permanent contract, as opposed to 84% of the total population of employees. The situation was more favourable for artists and writers working as employees in Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovakia and, above all, in Lithuania and Romania where all of them reported that they held a permanent contract.

In 2013, there were around 675 000 cultural market-oriented enterprises (covered by SBS) in the EU, which corresponded to 6.4% of all enterprises in total services (except trade and financial and insurance activities). Cultural enterprises employed close to 2.2 million people (self-employed and employees), an average of 3 persons each.

The cultural sectors’ turnover (the total value of market sales of goods and services) was around EUR 300 billion, which represented 5.3% of the turnover of total services. The fact that they accounted for a lower share in total turnover (as compared with 6.4% of the number of enterprises) can be explained by the smaller average size of cultural enterprises (3 persons employed, as against 5 in services as a whole). In fact, turnover per head (i.e. by employed person) was about EUR 140 000 in the cultural sectors, as against around EUR 105 000 in total service activities. France and Italy were the only Member States with over 100 000 cultural enterprises, each accounting for 15% of the EU total number of cultural enterprises. Together with Germany (73 000 enterprises) and Spain (68 000), these four countries represented over half of the EU total.

As a proportion of all enterprises in total services, cultural enterprises were most prominent in Belgium, Greece and Sweden (all 8%), followed by Slovenia, Denmark, France and the Netherlands (all 7%), all of which ranked above the EU average. Shares were smallest in Lithuania (3%), Portugal, Latvia and Bulgaria (all 4%). As regards enterprise size, Lithuania was the only Member State in which the average number of persons employed in cultural enterprises approached that in total services. In all other countries (even the United Kingdom and Germany, where cultural enterprises were the largest in Europe, averaging around six employed persons), cultural enterprises tend to be smaller than in other sectors of activities.

With 9.2% of all EU cultural enterprises in 2013, the United Kingdom accounted for 22.7% of the turnover of EU cultural businesses. Together with Germany (20.8%) and France (16.6%), these three countries generated 60% of EU cultural turnover. The United Kingdom was also the Member State in which the turnover of cultural businesses was highest as a proportion of total services: 6.4%, which is more than a percentage point higher than the EU average (5.3%).

In 2014, ‘works of art’ (which include paintings, engravings, designs and sculpture) were the leading category of extra-EU exports of cultural goods (43%). Together, ‘works of art’, ‘books’ and ‘antiques’ made up close to three quarters of extra-EU cultural exports. On the other hand, ‘photographic plates and films’, ‘maps’ and ‘architectural plans and drawings’ each accounted for less than 1%. ‘Works of art’ were the main cultural goods exported from Luxembourg (80%), the United Kingdom (44%), France (32%) and Austria (28%). ‘Books’ were the leading category of cultural exports from 16 EU Member States, accounting for over 50% from Spain, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia, Cyprus and Malta (the two latter around 90%).

Poland, Croatia, Finland and Estonia exported mostly ‘newspapers and periodicals’. Italy had the highest proportion of cultural exports in the category of ‘knitted or crocheted fabrics, embroidery and tapestries’. Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden recorded the highest proportions of ‘films, video games and consoles’, with the Netherlands ranking top at 64%.

As for other minor groups of products, the United Kingdom was the EU’s most specialised country in the export of ‘antiques’ (12%). ‘Musical instruments’ accounted for most in Romania (14 %). Ireland recorded the highest percentage of ‘photographic plates and films’ (2%). Greece observed the highest share (6%) for the export of ‘maps’, while Finland ranked top in the category of ‘architectural plans and drawings’ (4%).

The main categories of EU imports of cultural products from non-EU countries were ‘films, video games and consoles’ (31%), ‘works of art’ (24%) and ‘books’ (16%). These three categories made up 70% of the total extra-EU imports.