Arts and Culture: The Social-economic Impact

Arts and Culture

The world has been struggling to achieve sustainable development over the past few. To achieve this, there has been growing interest in culture and arts as a means to drive creation of job. Recently, UNESCO released the guidelines on how to measure and put together data on economic contribution of culture industries to development. This has led to a new wave of funding for the arts and culture which critics arguing that this should not be the only reason for such interest.

Classification of culture and creative industries

Cultural industries are those whose main input comes with symbolic value. We have seen some of the best fine arts, film and craft creators amuse the planet with their imaginations. Other players in the same category include jewelry design, publishing and design which carry some of the most expensive items. The jewelry and fashion industries in particular have become increasingly popular and expensive over the years.

Creative industries on the other hand carry a much broader significance. They are mainly built on knowledge as the foundation of their major input. They include cultural goods and services with things like software design and internet services.

When talking about the impact of art therefore, in this case, we are referring to the broad classification of artistic works and industries. UNESCO has tried to give out guidelines for classifying these industries. However, there has never been international consensus on this matter and there is no sign we are going to see any soon. Countries differ broadly in terms of involvement and focus on the shaping of information that may be useful for them.

Nevertheless, societal value of culture and arts is a global phenomenon. A report by Cultural Times, the first map of cultural and creative industries, acknowledges the global appreciation of these industries. They are appreciated as the cement that binds together societies and nations – beyond individual interests. The survey analyses 11 different cultural and creative industry sectors creating a quantified global economic and social contribution for the entire sector.

It is clear that culture and arts have a great influence to the social and economic growth of the whole world. Different entities have assessed this contribution and revealed that the industry generates $250 billion in revenue every year in addition to creating 29.5 million jobs annually across the globe. These reports present the true value of art and culture as a good rationale to initiate government support, more so in the developing countries.

The case of South Africa

South Africa is one of the most economically advanced nations of Africa. Over the past few years, the country has found a new passion in cultural and creative industry. It has discovered this gold mine as potential contributor to the economic growth of the nation and a means for job creation. A recent report by Mzansi’s Golden Economy has highlighted means through which arts, culture and heritage industries can benefit the nation economically.

As if that is not enough, the government has established a National Cultural Observatory that will act as the center for information and research, focusing on the creative and cultural industry. The center will be in-charge of collecting statistics on the economic and social contribution of the industries to the growth of the nation. In 2014, the country did its initial cultural and creative industries study. The report indicated that arts and related sectors had produced between 162,809 and 192,410 job opportunities for the people of Msanzi. These figures would be converted as 0.08% to 1.28% of the countries employment – which leads to a 2.9% contribution to GDP.

There are more people involved in the industries than there are in any other. In a recent interview with about 2000 people involved differently in the culture and creative sector, it was revealed that most firms tend to be small – some (27%, more than a quarter), with as few as one employee. A third of the sector (34%) was found to have two to five people employed. Gender equality has been emphasized with equal opportunities available for both men and women.

There is a severe unemployment among the youth in South Africa, as is the case with many developing nation. This is why the creative and cultural industry is particularly important. The younger generation occupies most of the industry with 22% of the employees being 18 years and below. 18% of them are between the ages of 19 and 24 while 19% are between 25 and 30. Conclusively, 60% of the work force in these industries comprise of the youth not older than 34 years of age.

This report relates directly of the global findings and trends. According to global mapping reports, the industries welcome people of all ages and backgrounds. It is dominated by small firms and the majority the workforce comes from the youth. The informal economy plays the major production role in developing nations. This is why many are finding more reasons to put resources in culture and creative sectors.

Arts, culture and cohesion

The whole world has emphasized the importance of social cohesion both and national and world levels. It is obvious that culture and creative industries are important contributors to this course. The Department of Arts and Culture recently unveiled a plan that strongly emphasizes nation-building through the promotion of intercultural dialogue, understanding and collaboration. There are many other spin-offs that arts can offer in terms of “instrumental value”.

Apart from these, art is used for intrinsic values as well as cultural aims. Things like entertainment, delight, challenge, meaning, interpretation, awareness creation and stimulation bring people together. They are non-market values that cannot be measured in terms of money, but are important in human cohesion. These intrinsic values initiate the creation of jobs and many other economic activities.

Public and private sponsorship/ support of art are vital to the growth of the industries. It is not an easy sector and many fail because they lack proper resources. Looking at how important art is to the world economy today, there is need for everyone to come together in support of those creating opportunities. Our contribution, however smallArts and Culture, will go a long way in generating channels of sustainable growth globally – more importantly in developing nations.  


1037 Words


Feb 07, 2020


3 Pages

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