Satellite account for culture and media 2018

5. International

Partly thanks to the work of UNESCO and the EU9) to define culture in terms of internationally harmonised classifications used to collect statistics, the number of countries which have compiled a satellite account for culture is slowly rising. Countries with a recent satellite account for culture include Finland, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States and Australia. Some Latin American countries have also already produced their own satellite accounts, partly because a harmonised Spanish-language manual is available in the region.10) In Asia, only Japan seems to be producing such a satellite account.

In many ways the creation of a satellite account for culture is still at the pioneer stage, but some countries have been producing accounts periodically for some time. This is the second such account produced by the Netherlands. Although UNESCO is trying to align the concepts and methods of setting up these accounts,11) countries can still differ considerably from each other. For example, the national and international discussion about what should and should not count as the phenomenon of culture shows no sign of stopping. While the core definition of ‘culture’ is generally the same, countries often differ on more peripheral aspects of that definition. These include whether or not to count goods and services that support products of a cultural nature; the entire IT infrastructure; software development; the sale of jewellery; the sale of toys; the production of clothing; and the value of volunteers’ contribution. Depending on their needs, some countries even expand their satellite account for culture to include the entire creative industry and/or sports, which makes quite a difference to the account’s findings. Another factor is that there is no one uniform approach to methodology. Some countries only look at culture-related industries (based on the SIC), while others, such as the Netherlands, ground their account in culture-related goods and services (based on the CPA). Although the latter approach produces a better description of the macroeconomic significance of culture, the first approach is easier, and therefore cheaper. This situation makes it difficult to compare the findings of different countries’ satellite accounts for culture and highlights the need for a more harmonised methodology and delineation that would allow for more internationally comparable accounts.

If, leaving aside the sub-optimal comparability, we were to compare the results of different countries’ satellite accounts globally, the Netherlands would appear in the top half in terms of the contribution of culture and media to GDP. Most countries arrive at a figure of around 3 percent of GDP, with a contribution to total employment slightly higher than this percentage.
At the upper end of the spectrum are the United Kingdom and the United States, both of whose figures include the entire creative industry. However, to a large extent this is also relevant to the Dutch satellite account for culture. When discussing employment, it should be borne in mind that it is not always clear which unit is being referred to: individuals, jobs or labour years (FTEs).

5.1 Contribution of culture (and media) to GDP and employment, internationally
CountryYear% of gross domestic product (GDP)% of employment
United Kingdom20185.86.2
United States20174.53.4
South Africa20173.13.4
Costa Rica20152.22.1

9) See, for example, ESSnet-Culture final technical report ( andmore recently 2019_A_Satellite_Account_for_the_European_Union_Creative_Industries.pdf (
10) See Cuenta Satélite de Cultura [Satellite Account for Culture] – Convenio Andrés Bello (
11) This work has been temporarily halted due to a lack of funds at UNESCO.