Swiss perspectives in 10 languages

Cultural sector loses 5% of its workers in 2020

empty theatre
For much of 2020, theatres were a no-go area, but they have recently opened their doors again. Keystone / Anthony Anex

The number of people working in the culture sector fell by almost 5% last year in Switzerland – a similar drop to that seen in the hotel and accommodation sector.

Figures published by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) showed a total of 298,000 people employed in some sort of cultural job in 2020, compared with 312,000 in 2019.

The decrease was primarily due to the widespread pandemic restrictions which led to the closure of theatres, cinemas, concert halls and various other cultural venues.

Part-time workers were more affected than full-timers, while those in rural regions were considerably more affected than those in urban regions (-12.4% compared with -4.4%), the FSO said. Some areas – including Zurich – even saw increases in culture employees in 2020.

Women were also slightly more impacted than men (-4.8% compared to -4.5%).


The FSO also said that “pure” cultural professionals (a paid musician in an orchestra, for example) were less affected – a drop of 1.8% – than administrative workers in the culture industry (the accountant for the orchestra group, for example) and especially cultural professionals working in other industries (e.g. a graphic designer working for a bank).

For Olivier Moeschler of the statistical office, this slight silver lining could be a sign that the federal and cantonal assistance accorded the culture sector during the pandemic might at least be helping those most in need of support.

As for where all these disappeared cultural professionals have gone, Moeschler says many have probably changed sector and looked for work elsewhere, since not all of them are officially registered as unemployed.

Whether they will return to the culture sector once things pick up again is unsure. Moeschler says “cultural jobs often work according to networks; and once these disappear, getting back in is not so easy”.


In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR