Iceland’s Culture Sector Accounts for Nearly 8% of Workers Skip to content
Húrra concert Reykjavík
Photo: Golli.

Iceland’s Culture Sector Accounts for Nearly 8% of Workers

In 2019, 15,500 people between the ages of 16-74 worked in cultural employment, according to data just released by Statistics Iceland. That number accounted for 7.7% of total employment, the same proportion as in 2018. (The tourism industry employed 24,981 in the same year, for comparison.) Within those who worked in culture, just over one third was employed in cultural industries while two thirds were in “cultural occupations in other industries,” according to Statistics Iceland.

Women Outnumber Men

Women accounted for 59.4% of cultural employees in 2019, compared to 45.1% in other employment. The ratio of women in cultural employment has been substantially higher than in other employment for the past five years. Nearly one quarter of cultural workers (24.4%) reported being self-employed, compared to 10.6% in other employment.

Highest Proportion in Performing Arts

Proportionally fewer immigrants were employed in cultural industries than in other industries in 2019, or 9.1% to 19.6%. Within the cultural industries, most people were employed in creative arts and entertainment activities (category 90) in 2019 or 15.2%. Libraries, archives, museums and other cultural activities came second (category 91) with 14.5%.

COVID-19 Relief Lacking for Creatives, Self-Employed

The Icelandic government’s economic response to COVID-19 has been criticised for failing to provide relief for self-employed workers and those in the performing arts. Gathering ban restrictions have necessitated the cancellation of numerous events and concerts, meaning that self-employed artists can’t depend on live shows for income. Unemployment for these artists has, predictably, been high and due to the nature of their work there are few, if any, state resources they can turn to for relief.

“Self-employed musicians in the Icelandic music industry work in variable and seasonal markets, pay taxes and other fees, but by the very nature of their work, fall outside of the mutual insurance safety net when crises like this occur,” a statement from the Association of Self-Employed Musicians (FSST) stated. “As such, self-employed musicians have not been able to take advantage of the government’s temporary resources or any of the economic relief measures that have been introduced.”

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