» Cultural goods, an economic driver in the digital age
10.03.2016 -

Cultural goods, an economic driver in the digital age

© ShutterstockChinese market in Dubai

Paris, 10 March—The trade in cultural goods doubled during the period 2004-2013 despite a global recession and a massive shift among consumers of movies and music towards web-based services.

A new report from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), The Globalisation of Cultural Trade: A Shift in Cultural Consumption--International flows of cultural goods and services 2004-2013, takes an in-depth look at the export and import of cultural goods and services around the world.

“Trade in cultural goods totaled $US212.8 billion in 2013, nearly double the amount in 2004,” said Silvia Montoya, Director of the UIS. “This is further evidence of the critical role cultural industries play in today’s global economy.”

China is now the lead exporter of cultural goods, followed by the United States. In 2013, the total value of China’s cultural exports was US$60.1 billion; more than double that of the United States at US$27.9 billion.

While the U.S. has lost its position as the top exporter of cultural goods, it remains the top importer of these goods. In general, developed countries play a smaller role in cultural exports, but still dominate imports. Meanwhile, emerging markets are growing their exports of cultural goods. Turkey and India strengthened their position in recent years, joining the world’s top 10 exporters of cultural goods.

Click on the image to see the full infographic

Which products are gaining ground?

Art and crafts have moved up in the ranking of the ten most traded cultural goods, fueled by gold jewelry -- a safe harbour in uncertain times. Gold jewelry exports represented more than $US100 billion in 2013.

Statues, statuettes and paintings also gained ground. Their share of the trade in art and crafts was worth US$19 billion in 2013.

Which products are losing ground?

From 2004 to 2013 the “dematerialisation”, or the digitisation of products, such as music, movies and newspapers, had an enormous impact on these industries, as their products moved into the realm of cultural services, often sold as web-based subscriptions.

Trade in recorded music products, for example, declined by 27 percent from 2004 to 2013, and trade in movies fell by 88 percent during the same period; however, audio-visual services as a whole steadily gained ground.

Despite the downturn in the trade of print products, reflected by the decline in newspapers, books held their ground as an important cultural export in some regions, growing by 20 percent from 2004 to 2013.

The measurement challenge

As more and more cultural goods move from the tangible to the digital, the report notes that obtaining accurate data on the flow of these goods is becoming more challenging.  Finding new sources of data and cooperation between international organizations in the promotion and improvement of cultural trade statistics, especially in the developing world, will help improve the understanding of the real contribution of the trade in cultural goods to the global economy.

The report and infographics are available online.

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For more information, contact Amy Otchet, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Montreal, Canada, a.otchet(at)unesco.org, tel: +1 514 343 7933 or cell +1 514 402 7836




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