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Cultural habits study reveals inequalities



Half of all 15-29 year-olds went to a Swiss festival in 2008, the survey found

Half of all 15-29 year-olds went to a Swiss festival in 2008, the survey found

(Keystone)

The Swiss are serious culture vultures but educational level and household income play a major role in access to culture, a survey shows.

The Federal Culture Office hopes the latest cultural strategy for 2012-2015 and better political awareness will help improve the situation. It wants to create a “national cultural dialogue” with the cantons and big cities to better coordinate policies.

According to a study published jointly on Monday by the Federal Statistics Office and the Federal Culture Office, 93 per cent of the Swiss population visit at least one cultural institution – museum, exhibition, cinema or concert – every year.

Amateur cultural activities are practised in smaller numbers but intensively. Around 62 per cent regularly take part in amateur activities: 25 per cent take photos, paint or draw, 20 per cent play an instrument and one in six sings. The Swiss are also big consumers of media: nine out of ten listen to the radio regularly and eight out of ten read books, magazines or use the internet.

“The Swiss are very active culturally,” Stéphanie Vanhooydonck, one of the two study authors, told swissinfo.ch. “But the survey results are very mixed as there are certain inequalities in terms of access to culture.”

Levels of education, household income and age continue to shape people’s rapport with culture, said the sociologist.

The consumption of culture is enjoyed very unevenly across society, the study showed. Young people in particular tend to take more advantage of what is on offer culturally, particularly films and concerts.

But while 81 per cent of university-educated residents regularly go to concerts, this compares with only 40 per cent for people who finished school at 18.

Around 30 per cent of those with university-level education enjoyed taking amateur photos, compared with ten per cent for those whose formal education ended earlier.

Nine out of ten people of university level said they had read at least one book during the year, compared with 50 per cent of people who finished school at 18. The internet was used on a daily basis by 70 per cent of university-level residents versus only 17 per cent for those whose formal education ended at 18.

Parents’ level of education had differing impacts on access to culture. While people who went to university were not that influenced by their parents, for school leavers it had a notable effect, the study found.

“Attaining a university-level education therefore means a facilitated access to culture”, the authors wrote.

Practical solutions

The new study, based on a representative sample of over 4,000 permanently resident people aged 15 and over, will be used to help develop cultural policy.

“We want to encourage young people to pursue their education and encourage them to practise more cultural activities. Then there’ll be a greater interest to try out other different cultural products,” Jean-Frédéric Jauslin, director of the Federal Culture Office, told swissinfo.ch.

This will be done not just via schools and colleges but also by supporting cultural organisations. Around 15 per cent of the population are members of a cultural association.

The solutions need to come from examining the obstacles to access, said Vanhooydonck.

“What came out of the study especially was a lack of time to enjoy cultural activities and the high cost rather than things like lack of infrastructure,” she commented.

One practical cost-saving idea is to create cultural versions of the annual Swiss Museum Pass, which  currently allows you visit 440 museums in Switzerland for SFr144 ($158).

Slowly but surely 

Cultural promotion in Switzerland - like education - falls under the authority of the cantons and communes and has been anchored in the constitution since 2000.

Cantons are responsible for culture at their own regional level, with the federal government responsible for cultural matters of national interest. Thus cultural promotion has become an established part of federal policy.

Jauslin admitted it had been a long, slow path to gain political recognition for culture but progress was being made.

“It has taken 152 years to have the word ‘culture’ written into the Swiss constitution. Now it is there we are moving forward,” the director noted. “We are in a phase where people are becoming aware of the importance of cultural policy. We are just starting things and Parliament is beginning to get to grips with the idea.”

Under Interior Minister Didier Burkhalter, the federal office want to create a “national dialogue” on culture, bringing together the cantons, major cities and the federal authorities to better coordinate cultural policies and develop joint activities.

Arts funding

Cultural promotion in Switzerland - like education - falls under the authority of the cantons and communes and has been anchored in the constitution since 2000.

Cantons are responsible for culture at their own regional level, with the federal government responsible for cultural matters of national interest. Thus cultural promotion has become an established part of federal policy.
 
Of the over SFr2.24 billion of public money invested in cultural funding in 2007, SFr1.03 billion (46 per cent) is spent by the communes and SFr880 million (39 per cent) by the cantons, with the federal government contributing SFr334 million (15 per cent).

Five regions provide 60 per cent of local funding for the arts: Basel Country, Bern, Geneva, Vaud and Zurich. Basel City tops the chart with SFr777 per inhabitant, but French-speaking cantons are generally more generous – SFr348 per inhabitant – than the German-speaking ones (SFr216 per resident).

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Swiss arts bodies

The Federal Culture Office looks after the areas of cultural promotion and awareness, national heritage and the preservation of historic buildings and monuments. It maintains the national art collections, the Swiss National Library and 11 museums including the Swiss National Museum.

The culture office is also active in the preservation of local character and archaeology. It supports the work of filmmakers, artists and designers and promotes the interests of the different linguistic and cultural communities. It has a staff of around 200.

Pro Helvetia, the Swiss arts council, exists to promote cultural works of national and international interest. It was established as a foundation by the Swiss government in 1939 and is still entirely funded by public money.
 
Pro Helvetia aims to provide Swiss artists and performers with the best possible conditions for the creation and dissemination of their works and helps them to maximize their impact in Switzerland and abroad.

As well as the two major players mentioned above, there are also many grant-making private foundations in Switzerland that make donations to the arts.

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swissinfo.ch


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