We Even Don’t Know that We Know Nothing

Or how to change the statistic framework of Bulgarian Culture

To define the economic significance of culture and its contribution to overall well-being and sustainable economic development of Bulgaria, it is necessary to introduce certain changes in the statistic framework of culture. There should be a change in the choice of indicators and the frequency with which information is collected. Presently, Bulgaria does not even measure the contribution of the culture sector to the GDP.

Diana Andreeva

The last twenty years are characterised by a market transformation of the cultural sector. The statistic framework of culture, however, does not carry ‘the spirit of the times’ but as a whole remains locked at the end of the 80s. There are practically no data regarding the new realities in culture: cultural and artistic industries, festivals, cultural and historical heritage, etc. The information available for analysis is scarce. The private and the nongovernmental sectors remain totally outside the statistic framework. At present, only the state and municipal sectors are taken into account, apart from few exceptions from the private sector (for example, the book publishing industry).

Similarly to the corresponding European context, within the Bulgarian economy there are numerous examples proving that the contribution made by the cultural and creative sector is not limited to its own directly measurable impact. Culture also has considerable contribution to other sectors of the economy, thus indirectly contributing to the overall economic development.

An extremely important indicator

is the share held by the culture and creative sphere in the GDP

in comparison to other economic sectors and services. According to Eurostat data, among the European countries there are very few examples of industrial sectors which have an equal or larger contribution to the GDP in comparison to the cultural and creative sector (2.6%). Among these competitive industries in some countries are the food and drinks industry, the chemical industry, and the production of optic and electrical equipment. In most countries, however, the GDP receives from the cultural sphere a greater percentage than it invests in the sector.

In the majority of the European countries, the cultural and creative sector has a leading contribution to the growth of national prosperity. For example, in France, Norway, the Netherlands and the UK this sector accounts for the largest share among all contributing sectors. In Bulgaria, the cultural sector receives about 0.6% of the GDP on the average, but its contribution to the GDP as added value remains unknown. Whole sections in this area are unaccounted for although they have been given priority status in ministerial programmes and despite the fact that Bulgaria is a country of extremely rich cultural heritage – movable, immovable and intangible. Unfortunately, this heritage only finds place in passionate political speeches and not in any particular strategy for the development and assessment of its impact on the economy. To this moment, the official statistics in Bulgaria do not account for the immovable or the intangible cultural heritage. The statement that "cultural heritage is a factor in the development of cultural tourism" remains an empty phrase because

the statistics account neither for cultural tourism nor for cultural heritage.

In view of the adoption by the Council of Ministers of the Plan for the Development of Cultural Tourism, it is of key importance to include both cultural tourism and cultural heritage in the statistic framework. Moreover, it remains impossible to measure neither the efficiency nor the efficacy of large state and municipal investment in social and cultural heritage, while these, by definition, should increase consumption. For the same reasons, those employed in the sector are unable to give proof in support of their claim for an increase in GDP funding for culture from 0.6% to 1%. We may only guess that the contribution of the cultural sector is about 1-2% of the GDP.

In terms of economic growth, the cultural sector in the countries of the European Union demonstrates impressive results, especially in the period 1999-2008. Whereas the actual growth of the European economy over the said period is 17.5%, growth in the cultural and creative sector exceeds this level by 2.2% achieving 19.7%. That is, the cultural and creative sectors indicate bigger growth compared to that of the economy. The trend has been observed in a number of EU Member States, yet we can only speculate whether it applies to Bulgaria as well. To be able to analyse the existence of such trend in Bulgaria, instead of relying on average statistic data for the country as an EU Member State, we need to establish e separate methodology for measuring economic growth per sector by applying the necessary indicators.

Furthermore, the observed dynamic economic contribution of the sector to the GDP in the European Union indicates a long-term positive trend of growth over the past years, which means that the economic significance of the cultural sector and its contribution to the overall well-being of the European Union stays on the increase and has built a sustainable trend. To check if this is the case in Bulgaria, speculations and extrapolations regarding trend observed in other EU states should face the test of in-depth analysis based on statistic data. It is highly important to measure and use the potential of the culture sector by performing a more detailed economic analysis in the time of the current financial and economic crisis which experience to a large extent in the real economy. A change in the statistic framework and the analysis of information which has not been collected or accounted for so far should make possible the analysis of the cultural sector as a whole and will become a good basis for its sustainable development.

An important aspect in the analysis of the statistic framework and its economic significance in relation to culture in the European context and in Bulgaria, in particular, is

employment in the cultural sector.

According to Eurostat data, in 2008 some 5.8 million people were employed in this sector which corresponds to 3.1% of all workers in the EU. It is an interesting fact that the statistic at the European level accounts for the number of employees in cultural tourism (0.6% of all workers in the cultural sector), which is yet another indication of the economic importance of this subsector. While employment in the European Union decreased in 2007-2009 as a result of the financial and economic crisis, employment in this sector indicated a sustainable rise (+1.85%). At the same time, the level of qualification in the area of culture remains higher than elsewhere (46.8% of individuals employed in it are university graduates whereas in other spheres the corresponding average percentage is 25.7%). Unfortunately, in Bulgaria there is once again insufficient data for an accurate and detailed analysis of employment in the cultural sector. There are trends of increasing employment in the cultural sphere as a result of the development of cultural and artistic industries as well as due to the positive impact of achieved growth in cultural tourism and increased employment in the sector. At the moment, however, when it comes to the analysis of these important indicators in the case of Bulgaria we can only speculate about the exact data used to present such conclusion.

The first step should be to introduce new indicators some of which will the statistic framework suggested in the text. The next key step would be to assess the economic impact of culture, and for this purpose there should be a clear view as to which sectors correspond to the cultural sector.