Creative Europe: measuring the creative industries of the EU

The origins of the EU – a coal and steel free trade agreement - lie elsewhere; however Europe’s creative industries are likely to be an increasingly important part of its economic future. Creative industries provide jobs that are highly skilled and more resistant to automation, jobs that are therefore more likely to be sustainable.[1] Understanding them is therefore of strategic importance.

A challenge in thinking about creative industries at a European level has been the absence of comparable statistics across the countries of the EU. Nesta’s report by Max Nathan, Andy Pratt and Ana Rincon-Aznar, published today, helps address this by providing consistent estimates of employment in the creative industries of the EU’s 28 member states and, where data has allowed, the wider ‘creative economies’ of 20 member states (the ‘creative economy’ consists of jobs inside the creative industries and creative jobs in other industries, for example a designer working for a car manufacturer).

The research finds that the EU’s creative industries employed 11.4 million people in 2013, accounting for five per cent of the EU workforce. The three largest creative industry workforces in the EU are those of the countries with the three largest workforces, with German creative industries employing 3.1 million (5.8 per cent of its workforce), the UK’s creative industries employing 2.3 million (7.9 per cent) and France employing 1.4 million (5.5 per cent of the workforce).[2]

However, in relative terms things look different. Sweden has the highest proportion of its workforce (8.9 per cent) employed in the creative industries, followed by Finland (8.2 per cent) and then the UK.[3] Sweden also has the highest proportion of its workforce employed in the creative economy (12 per cent) compared to 9.5 per cent in the UK.

The UK accounts for 14 per cent of the total EU workforce, but a fifth (21 per cent) of all creative industry jobs, with these roles growing three times faster in the UK in 2011-2013 than the EU as a whole. That is, between 2011 and 2013 the UK’s creative industry employment grew by 6.1 per cent per annum (pa) compared with 1.8 per cent in the EU as a whole. Of the six EU economies the report analyses in detail (Germany, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the UK), the UK was the fastest growing, followed by the Netherlands and Poland - which both grew at 3.7 per cent.

The research is based on mapping the existing official UK creative occupations and industries classification onto the most comparable equivalent in the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU LFS) held by the EU’s statistical agency Eurostat. This approach therefore, to some extent, reflects the specific characteristics of the UK’s creative classification. However, it has the advantage that it uses a definition which already has official status and one based on a transparent methodology: the Dynamic Mapping approach. In this, industries are identified as creative on the basis that they employ a high proportion of workers in creative occupations.[4] This methodology has also been employed to measure the high-tech and information industries of the UK.[5]

The research should help inform thinking on which economies are best placed to adapt to automation – previous Nesta research shows that creative jobs are less likely to be displaced by future automation - and where creative jobs are growing fastest. The findings also raise the question of how to provide policies that support these activities and ensure their growth in an increasingly globalised world - an environment that will provide the EU’s creative industries with ever greater opportunities to market their skills and products, but also increased levels of competition.

In the UK, we have previously called for the creation of one million new creative jobs by 2035. Policy recommendations to achieve this have included education reforms to encourage STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths). We welcome increasing policy debate on these issues at a European level, and hope this report helps stimulate discussion.



[1] Bakhshi, H., Frey, C, and Osborn, M. (2015), ‘Creativity vs. Robots’.

[2] The UK employment numbers differ from the official UK creative industry statistics, as they are constructed on a different basis to ensure consistency across the European Union. An important difference is that official UK creative industries classification is defined at a four digit level in the UK’s Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) coding. However, four digit resolution is not available in the EU LFS data, and so a best possible match was made from the UK 4-digit coding to the 3-digit NACE coding used by Eurostat to construct European creative industry estimates.

[3] These figures are based on the average of 2011-2013 data.

[4] Bakhshi, H., Freeman, A. and Higgs, P. (2013), ‘A dynamic Mapping of the UK’s creative industries’.

[5] Bakhshi, H., Davies, J., Freeman, A. and Higgs, P. (2015) ‘The Geography of the UK’s creative and high-tech economies’, Nesta. Spilsbury, M. (2015), ‘Dynamic Mapping of the Information Economy Industries’, Nesta and TechUK.


John Davies

John Davies

John Davies

Principal Data Scientist, Data Analytics Practice

John was a data scientist focusing on the digital and creative economy. He was interested in the interface of economics, digital technology and data.

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