New UNESCO Economic Impact Outlook on The Creative Industries

The cultural and creative industries (CCIs) have been among the hardest hit sectors by COVID-19. The impact of the pandemic has been particularly felt in venue and site-based activities, such as theatre, live music, festivals, cinemas and museums. Around the world, the livelihoods of artists and cultural workers have also been profoundly affected by lockdowns and physical distancing measures, exacerbating their already precarious conditions. 

In the context of the urgent and unprecedented need to measure the extent of the economic and financial repercussions of the crisis, traditional statistical tools and standard forecasting methods have been ill-adapted. This difficulty proved to be even greater in the cultural and creative industries, which have historically faced significant data-collecting challenges and are characterized by a high degree of informality.

Building on an international review of studies published in 2020, this new study provides an outlook of the projected scale of the global disruption caused by the spread of the virus by examining the economic impact of the pandemic on the cultural and creative industries.  

Notwithstanding the challenges inherent to cultural data, this study provides credible estimates of the economic impact of the pandemic on these industries in 20 mid- to large sized economies, which collectively account for 61% of the world economy.  It is estimated that an overall US$750bn contraction of the gross value added by cultural and creative industries has been experienced globally in 2020, which represents a dramatic setback in the capacity of these industries to be drivers of cultural, economic and social outputs for sustainable development. Losses in revenue in the cultural and creative industries in 2020 are also particularly significant, ranging between approximately 20 to 40% across different countries. 

This contraction, in turn, led to a severe disruption in global employment. Massive job losses, estimated to upwards of 10 million, were registered in the cultural and creative industries, profoundly affecting the livelihoods of creative workers. Freelancers have experienced higher levels of income loss and unemployment than other categories of cultural and creative workers, demonstrating the pressing need to uphold and reinforce the social and economic rights of artists and cultural professionals worldwide.  

The acceleration of the digital transformation across the cultural and creative industries is another clear trend that has emerged from the crisis. Digital technologies are being used in new ways by audiences and cultural professionals alike, triggering the emergence of innovative digital production, distribution and consumption patterns.  

This research raises awareness of the need to invest in creativity, protect the status of artists and ensure a fair digital transition. These are essential steps in advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly in its ambition to promote decent work and build peaceful and inclusive societies in which the fundamental freedoms of all citizens are protected. It is part of UNESCO’s efforts to collect and systematise quantitative and qualitative information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the culture sector, particularly in the context of the year 2021, which has been declared the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development by the United Nations General Assembly. More information is available at:

Culture and Creative Industries in the face of COVID-19: An Economic Impact Outlook

Goal(s) of UNESCO's 2005 Convention