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Culture increasingly important for employment

| Text: Björn Lindahl

Culture plays an increasingly important role in employment. Cultural and creative trades employ five million people in Europe and represent 3.3 percent of the total EU economy. Employment in cultural occupations also grows three times faster than the rest of the economy. Both in the EU and in the Nordic region culture is being highlighted as a creative catalyst which can help create competitiveness and employment within the wider economy.

“Cultural and creative trades could be the way out of the crisis for the Nordic region,” writes the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Secretary General Halldór Ásgrímsson in his introduction to the report ‘The Creative Nordic Region 2012’.

The report is written by KreaNord, which was founded in the wake of a prime ministerial meeting in Punkaharju in 2007. KreaNord is a Nordic initiative which aims to improve the growth potential for the region’s cultural and creative trades. The initiative came partly in response to a 2010 EU Commission green paper ‘Unlocking the Potential of the Cultural and Creative Industries’. The green paper says the cultural sector represents a large untapped potential. KreaNord has organised a string of conferences between 2008 and 2012 which resulted in four political recommendations for the ministers of culture and trade:

  • Cooperation between the Nordic cultural and creative trades and with other businesses should be strengthened.
  • New funding models should be developed to make it easier for the cultural sector to take part in the global marketplace - and to attract foreign investors to the Nordic region.
  • Culture and creativity should be promoted at all educational levels.
  • A common Nordic market for creative industries and cultural products should be established.

So far so good. Not many in the EU or in the Nordic region argue against the fact that we should become more creative and that culture plays an important role in order for a country and regions to be as vital as possible. 

The challenges arise when European or Nordic initiatives need funding. Culture is something individual countries prefer to control themselves.

The EU Commission’s 2014-2020 budget includes a new programme called Creative Europe, where culture has been allocated €1.8bn (out of which €900m is earmarked the film industry). This represent a 40 percent increase on the previous budget period, but at that time culture represented a minuscule part of the budget. Direct support for cultural projects represented only 0.05 percent of the total EU budget for 2007-2013, or 13 Eurocent per capita. In comparison 42 percent of the EU budget still goes to agriculture and rural development. 

In the Nordic region the Nordic Council of Ministers has given culture a higher priority. The 2013 budget proposes to grant culture 169m Danish kroner (€22.6m). That is 17.7 percent of the total Nordic cooperation budget, but exactly the same figure as for 2012. This represents nearly one whole Euro per person.

At the same time some countries’ cultural budgets are growing rapidly. Next year’s Norwegian national budget allocates nearly the aimed for 1 percent of total spending to culture. An increase of 889 million Norwegian kroner (€120m) represents a doubling of the cultural budget since the centre-left government came to power in 2005.

Yet an increase in state funding for culture is not going to be the main driver for getting Europeans out of the economic crisis. 

Equally important is exploring the creative potential present in the cultural sector so it can benefit the rest of the economy. The Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis has tried to describe the importance of the cultural sector on a regional and national level.

To put it simply, there are three dimensions to the impact culture can have.

  • The first dimension relates to the importance culture has when it comes to relationships, networks and trust which bind people in one region together.
  • The second dimension is culture as a means to tying external visitors to the area. This could be in the form of a new centre of experience or a new area of the city.
  • The third dimension is culture’s influence on products and possible services which can be exported from the region and contribute to export revenues.

“All these concepts and definitions do have one thing in common - they all try to capture the social phenomenon which is the seemingly increasing importance to the economy of expressive values like aesthetics and experiences. It is increasingly attractive to strive for uniqueness and things that cannot be copied, and here culture and cultural heritage plays an important role,” writes the project’s leader Anna Kolmodin.

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