The cultural and creative economy has attracted more and more attention. In 2012, the European Commission began to promote the development of this economy to contribute to the growth and creation of jobs in the European Union, which was instrumental in drawing policy makers’ attention to the importance of this sector at all levels of government – European, national, regional and local.
Although a substantial body of literature assumes that a thriving cultural and creative economy has a positive effect on the quality of life, social inclusion and cohesion, this concept remains unclear and difficult to quantify. In Belgium, as culture is a competence at community level and the economy is a competence at regional level, quantification and the harmonisation of definitions are difficult, especially in Brussels.
This is why a study seeking to measure the significance and to analyse the structure of the cultural and creative industry in Brussels is welcome. Thus, Caterina Mauri (Syddansk Universitet – Denmark), Jef Vlegels (UGent) and Walter Ysebaert (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) have examined the available statistics closely, in order to establish the number of companies, turnover, value added and jobs concerned for the period between 2008 and 2014.
The researchers therefore established statistical series for 10 cultural and creative sectors: performing arts; libraries, archives and museums; photography; art and antiques retail; audiovisual; printed media; fashion; advertising; and architecture and design. They also divided activities according to the intensity of their creative content. The central circle, art core, is meant to have the highest creative and cultural content. For instance, it includes performing arts. This creative content then decreases when moving to the outer circles, where activities which support creativity (and the more directly commercial character) override creation itself. An example of a support activity is the supply of material for performances.
With 4,7 % of employment and 4,2 % of value added, the study points out that in Brussels, a city-region, the share of the creative and cultural economy in the regional economy is greater than in Flanders and Wallonia. In the literature, this component of the economy has always been closely connected to urban settings. Cultural and creative activities tend to be strongly clustered geographically because cultural commodity production relies heavily on human input, dense flows of information, skill-sourcing and knowhow, as well as on more fluid concepts such as “atmosphere” and a “creative scene”. The role as capital has also influenced the location of certain institutions, a logic which persists due to technical contingencies in particular. This is especially noticeable with respect to the audiovisual sector.
The authors note that in Brussels, the share of the economy which is represented by the cultural and creative economy decreased during the period under study. The causes are not entirely clear, and while all of its sectors are affected, there are significant differences. Some, such as printed media, shrank quite significantly and lost a large number of workers. This is almost certainly related to digitalisation. Others, such as those belonging to the art core, showed resilience in the aftermath of the crisis. This is probably related to the fact that artistic creation is typically more dependent on public subsidies, which were more stable during this period, at least in Belgium.
The sectors with a significant cultural and creative content, such as the performing arts, audiovisual, advertising and architecture are activities which resist better in Brussels than in the other regions. These are also sectors which stand out due to high value added per worker, with more specialised qualification profiles.
The cultural and creative economy is valuable both as a draw for creative professionals and as a source of flexible employment for relatively unskilled workers, in particular via support activities. But it should be noted that the support activities are less dynamic in Brussels, where there are, however, many unskilled workers. This might be an avenue to explore so that the advantages of an urban setting benefit the inhabitants of Brussels more, in particular via the cultural and creative economy in the broad sense.
Caterina Mauri, Jef Vlegels and Walter Ysebaert, “The cultural and creative economy in Brussels-Capital Region”, Brussels Studies [Online], General collection, No 126, 10 September 2018.
To read the full article visit the following link: https://journals.openedition.org/brussels/1721