Paulo Whitaker / REUTERS

A new report breaks down the successes and limitations of creative industries around the world.

I’ve long argued that creativity is a key driver of economic success. My own research—focusing on the role of the creative class across U.S cities and metros—has documented the connection between creativity and the wealth, innovation, and competitiveness of nations.

A new report from UNESCO and the consulting group EY (formerly Ernst & Young) identifies the extent and scope of the creative economy worldwide. To get at this, the report uses data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) to identify the number of workers and overall global economic impact of the creative economy (which it defines as spanning 11 key industries including visual and performing arts, radio, music, books, newspapers and magazines, film, television, architecture, gaming, and advertising). In addition, it draws further insight from 150 interviews with experts and stakeholders across the world.

According to the report, the creative economy employed nearly 30 million people worldwide and generated $2.25 trillion in revenue—or 3 percent of the world’s GDP—in 2013. This is substantially more than global telecommunications ($1.57 trillion) and greater than the GDP of India, Russia, or Canada.

The chart below shows the contributions of all 11 cultural and creative sectors to the global economy.

Television is the largest sector with $477 billion in revenue, followed by visual arts and newspapers and magazines. Together, these three sectors account for over $1.2 trillion in global revenue, and roughly half (around 54 percent) of the total for the creative economy worldwide.

The report points out that the rise in piracy—e.g. illegal streaming and file-sharing services—has not only hit hard at legitimate distribution services, but at the talented artists and innovators who drive the global creative economy. According to its data, piracy robs the United States of 71,000 jobs annually in addition to $12.5 billion in economic losses.

The map above shows the global breakdown of the creative economy by region. The creative economy is highly concentrated in Asia, Europe, and North America. Asia-Pacific’s creative economy is the largest, generating $743 billion—or 33 percent of the global total for creative industries—and 12.7 million jobs (43 percent of the global total). Europe is second with $709 billion (32 percent) and 7.7 million jobs (26 percent). North America is third with $620 billion (27 percent) and 4.7 million jobs (16 percent).

North America is the top consumer of digital content, as well as the largest contributor to global film and TV revenue, according to the report. Europe, on the other hand, is number one in advertising revenue, while Asia-Pacific is number one in gaming and architecture.

These numbers drop off a bit when it comes to Latin America and the Caribbean, where the creative economy generates $124 billion (6 percent) and 1.9 million jobs (7 percent). Africa and the Middle East account for $58 billion in revenue (3 percent) and 2.4 million jobs (8 percent). Television is the number one cultural and creative industry in both Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa and the Middle East, though revenues are significantly less than in other areas of the world. Although these figures may seem small, the creative economies of Africa and Latin America have significant global clout—especially in music, film, and the arts.

It’s also important to note that these figures do not include contributions from the informal economy—the production of goods and services that isn’t part of the official GDP. According to the report, the informal creative economy contributed $33 billion in revenue in 2013 and around 1.2 million jobs. Many of these jobs are in the performing arts. These contributions are especially prevalent in emerging economies, since those who can’t afford to buy from within formal industries often turn to informal ones for consumption.

The report zeroes in on country-by-country patterns as well. The map below shows the leading creative and cultural industries for 17 different countries. The top sectors include TV and the performing arts in the U.S., music and gaming in Canada, books and advertising in France, movies and newspapers in India, and performing arts and movies in China. These figures highlight the diversity of creative industries across the world’s leading nations.

In order to strengthen and grow these creative industries, the report identifies several key “drivers of change,” including improving integration within industries and focusing on new, digital technologies. Perhaps most importantly, the report focuses on talent as the critical driver of a creative economy, and encourages countries to broaden access to higher education and promote their colleges and universities as places to study and live across the world.

Ultimately, the global creative economy revolves around and is powered by cities. New York takes the number one spot as a creative hub, according to related research by EY, and London is second. These are the world’s two leading superstar cities according to wide variety of research, including my own. Paris is third, San Francisco (the world’s leading tech hub) is fourth, and Singapore is fifth. Sydney, L.A., Berlin, Tokyo, and Barcelona round out the top ten global creative centers.

Creative and cultural industries are not mere products of the wealth of these cities, they are also crucial to their appeal to global talent. “Cities,” the report notes, “provide a concentration of people hungry for entertainment in many forms, and with diverse appetites” that “allow cultural diversity to flourish.” That is to say, cities are central to the global creative economy and the clustering of talent and industries that power it.

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