Professional practice


The Professional Practice theme page contains information about the composition of the cultural labor market. What do we know about the self-employed and what about jobs? We also look at the differences between an approach from companies and from professions. Income and turnover are examined for the group as a whole and for the domains separately. Finally, we look at professional practice and how the Fair Practice Code and Fair Pay can help strengthen the sector.


A high number of self-employed people work within the cultural and creative professional practice. Differences can be seen between parts of the sector. For example, most self-employed people work within the Arts and cultural heritage subsector, followed by the Creative business services subsector. Jobs for employees have recovered in 2021 and 2022. Here too, arts and cultural heritage initially recover less well than other sectors, which will pick up again from 2022.

The cultural and creative sector is recovering after the effects of the corona pandemic. The pace of this recovery varies per cultural domain. To explain this, we need to get a better picture of the work practices of makers and the ecosystem in which they are active. The Fair Practice Code and Fair Pay are important guidelines for sustainably strengthening the sector, but there are a number of limitations to their practical implementation, such as the available financial resources.


Introduction and importance of the theme

The cultural labor market is multifaceted and therefore not easy to explain. It is important to approach the position of workers – employees and self-employed – in the sector not only from the perspective of the labor market, but especially from the perspective of professional practice. Major differences can be observed per domain. Research into the labor market position of self-employed people also makes it clear that there is a lot of variation in how definitions are used. This makes it difficult to form a complete picture of the labor market. For example, what do we mean by self-employed persons or the cultural and creative professions (Vinken et al. 2023)? Nevertheless, an integrated picture of developments in the cultural labor market results from a multitude of sources.

The cultural labor market is known to be precarious and the position of many workers in the sector is precarious. In recent years, Kunsten '92 launched the Labor Market Agenda, the Fair Practice Code was drawn up and strengthening the position of the cultural and creative professional is one of the four main topics in the Multi-Year Letter from former State Secretary Uslu. The Council for Culture has published advice for the renewal of the Cultural System in 2029, with proposed changes that will have a major impact on professional practice in the sector (Council for Culture 2024). In this thematic analysis we provide an overview of some important developments .

Composition of the cultural labor market

Speaking of the labor market within the cultural and creative sector as a whole is actually inadequate. The ratio between the number of jobs for employees and work for the self-employed varies per part of the sector, as does the development of these ratios. In any case, for the entire sector, professional practice is inextricably linked to self-employment.


In recent decades, the number of self-employed people in the Dutch labor market as a whole has continued to increase, reaching a growth of 42 percent in 2022 compared to 2010. For the cultural and creative sector (CCS) there is an increase of 67 percent in the same period. However, this increase is largely determined by the subsector 'Arts and cultural heritage' where the increase is 80 percent and where the majority of self-employed people can be found (CBS 2023). Compared to other European countries, the Netherlands has the highest percentage of self-employed people in the cultural sector (Eurostat 2023).

The previous figures are based on the business classification of the sector. The sector is made up of companies and the associated SBI codes. However, it is also possible to view the sector from the perspective of professional groups. This was done by CBS in the monitor Artists and workers in other creative professions. This monitor contains data up to 2019, but nevertheless still offers valuable insights into the composition of the cultural and creative sector. It can be seen that it is mainly artists are the ones where the growth is in the number of self-employed people. The number of self-employed people increased by 2010 percent between the periods 2012-2017 and 2019-24, while this was only 5 percent for the other creative professions. This source also provides insight into how much time per week the different groups spend on working in their so-called first job; the profession they spend the most time on. It is clear that the distribution between part-time and full-time work among artists almost corresponds to the picture of the entire working population.
It should be noted that the various studies do not use a clear definition of self-employed persons and that the same applies to concepts such as 'cultural and creative professions' and 'false self-employment'. This means that there are as yet no undisputed truths about these concepts (Vinken et al. 2023).

Self-employed people and jobs for employees

These figures show the development of the number of self-employed people and the number of jobs for employees in the Netherlands as a whole and for the different parts of the cultural and creative sector. Within the cultural and creative sector (CCS), we use the subsectors Arts and cultural heritage (KCE), Media and entertainment (M&E) and Creative business services (KZD). The figures on the number of self-employed people and jobs are indexed (2010=100).

The number of jobs for employees according to Statistics Netherlands

Source: CBS


The division into companies also shows how many jobs there are in the sector. After a dip in 2020, explained by the effects of the corona pandemic, the number of jobs will recover from 2022 to beyond pre-pandemic levels. The increase is certainly the strongest in the subsector 'Arts and cultural heritage', where the decline in the number of jobs was significant. It is important to note that the size of the jobs in this subsector is consistently the lowest. There will be an average of around 2023 FTE available per job in both 'Media and entertainment' and 'Creative business services' in 0,83, while this will remain at around 0,69 FTE in 'Arts and cultural heritage' (CBS 2023). .

Not all effects of the pandemic are clearly visible in the figures. For example, it is not easy to see how many workers decided to quit in 2020 due to corona measures. We know that the majority of subsidized organizations have not cut back on permanent contracts and in 2020 the costs for temporary contracts were reduced by 29 percent (Goudriaan et al. 2021). It is clear that both the number of jobs and the number of self-employed people in all subsectors are showing growth after the dip of 2020. There is a difference between the different subsectors. 'Arts and cultural heritage' remains the subsector where the most self-employed people are employed and the increase in the number of jobs in 2022 is the largest of all subsectors. However, in 'Creative business services', the increase in the number of self-employed people has been large this period (CBS 2023).


Despite the restrictive measures at the beginning of that year, graduates in 2022 indicate that they have a positive experience when entering the labor market. Graduates in the Arts sector score lower than average in many areas. For example, 87 percent of all graduates find a job immediately after graduation, but in the Arts sector graduates are least likely to find immediate work (71 percent). They are also the least likely to have a permanent position (47 percent) and the lowest number of working hours per week (30 hours). Only 57 percent of graduates in the Arts sector find a job in their own field, compared to an average of 77 percent of all graduates (ROA 2023).

The coming years will be all about recovery. A study by ROA of Maastricht University among recent graduates of a higher professional education arts program shows that graduates from the Arts sector have been more affected than other young alumni during the corona pandemic (Allen et al. 2022). For this study, three measurements were taken during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
Among art alumni, workers in executive professions in particular have become unemployed more often. Especially in the theater sector, the unemployment figures go from one of the lowest values ​​of all art alumni before corona (between zero and five percent) to the by far highest value at the first measurement (between 35 and 40 percent). Theater makers will also see the largest decline in their average gross monthly wages in 2020 and 2021. For almost all other groups of alumni, there will be an increase in gross monthly wages in 2021, except for heritage professionals, where there will be a small decrease. A notable exception are musicians, who are the only group within art alumni that managed to convert the decreased monthly wages in 2020 into an increase in 2021 (Allen et al. 2022).

In addition to the developments among art alumni, it is a good idea to take a broader look at what we know about the money that self-employed people earn in the sector.

Alumni HBO art courses

Indexed (2014=100)

Source: ROA

Income and turnover

With regard to the incomes of Dutch artists, it is known from older research that the income from artistic work constitutes on average half of the total income (Loots et al. 2022). Further information about incomes of Dutch artists and other workers with creative professions, as well as employment figures, are available from both professions and company data. The data on income for Dutch artists is not very current and covers the period 2017 to 2019, for which an average is known. This information show that the median personal gross annual income of artists is below that of all workers in the Netherlands and far below that of others who - according to the CBS definition - have very complex specialized professions that require a higher vocational or university education. To the extent that the various artist professions can be broken down in this data, it can be seen that the visual professions have the lowest income and the design professions have the highest (CBS 2021).

Statistics Netherlands published more data on income in the form of turnover figures for self-employed persons per quarter for the years 2019 to 2021. During this period, the effect of the corona pandemic is clearly visible, as are the first steps towards recovery. The subsector 'Arts and cultural heritage' subsequently recovered more slowly than the subsector 'Creative business services'. Data for 2022 and 2023 will show to what extent this recovery continues in line with the 2019 level.

Income and turnover

€ (in 2019 prices)
x 1.000 €
x 1.000 €

Source: CBS

Despite the recovery compared to the corona years, the figures show that the income of workers in the creative and cultural sector still lags behind the averages. The question of how the labor market position of artists can be strengthened remains topical.

Various initiatives are being tested abroad. The first – positive – results of an Irish pilot in which artists receive a basic income of 325 euros per week have recently been published. Artists report investing more time and resources in their art, reporting a decrease in depression and anxiety and working fewer hours in other sectors.

The European Commission is also paying attention to the professional practice of artists: experts have made various recommendations to improve the working conditions of artists at European level, such as European legislation for artists and a framework for equal employment conditions (Meissnitzer et al. 2023).

Turnover per domain

Loots and Witteloostuijn already indicate in their publication on incomes and the earning capacity of artists that the sources of income of artists differ per sector (Loots et al. 2022). These figures partly cover the corona years, which means they give a distorted picture. Nevertheless, it is useful to use these figures to get an impression of the different incomes in the sector.

The turnover figures can be grouped reasonably well into different domains. It can be seen that for the creative arts and design professions, the average and median turnover of self-employed people was only slightly negatively affected in the second quarter. However, the decline is considerably greater in the performing arts and the sector is still recovering at the end of 2021.

For example, turnover has hardly been negatively affected by self-employed people within the creative arts (visual artists, writers, choreographers, poets, composers, etc.) and within architecture and design. This is a completely different story for self-employed people in the performing arts, where turnover will remain low during 2020 and 2021. This is where most of the support went from the Temporary Bridging Scheme for Self-Employed Entrepreneurs (TOZO) (Goudriaan et al. 2023).

Turnover per domain

These figures show the turnover of self-employed people within different domains.

x 1.000 €
x 1.000 €
x 1.000 €

Source: Loots et al. 2022

The music industry and the book industry are experiencing few problems in their turnover after the second quarter of 2020, except for a dip in the first quarter of 2021. It should be noted that the performing musicians and authors are not included. The musicians are part of the performing arts figures and the authors are part of the creative arts.

Turnover per domain

These figures show the turnover of self-employed people within different domains.

x 1.000 €
x 1.000 €
x 1.000 €

Source: Loots et al. 2022

De Creative Industry Monitor shows that the economic added value of the CCS has largely recovered from the corona years. The 'Arts and Cultural Heritage' subsector, which was hardest hit, has recently been shrinking by -0,3 percent per year, but has shown an annual increase of 1,5 percent over the past decade (compared to 2,2 percent for the entire Dutch economy). This means that the subsector, which was hit hardest by the decline in 2020, will be just below the 2022 level in 2019 (Rutten et al. 2024).

Despite the available data, much is still unknown about artists' incomes, making it difficult to compare incomes between different sectors. Updating, supplementing and using the Income test guide can be helpful in collecting this knowledge (Vinken et al. 2023).


In the sector as a whole, it is becoming clear from several sources that the cultural and creative sector has atypical market forces. The supply is extremely diverse, the value of the supply is often difficult to predict, and for many, producing a product is at least as valuable as the product itself (which sometimes means overproduction lurks). Moreover, in large parts of the sector, only a small group of workers generates the majority of the income (Loots et al. 2022). It is also clear that despite low incomes and a 'surplus' of workers, few creatives change profession (see, among others, Loots et al. 2022, Jong et al. 2021). The foregoing illustrates why it is important not to approach the position of workers in the sector (only) from a view of the labor market, but above all to focus on professional practice. How this practice can (or should) influence the employment conditions used is currently already being explored by Platform ACCT within the fairPACCT program. But there are more ways in which this perspective can be of added value.

Working hours for men and women

These figures indicate how many hours per week men and women work in the Netherlands as a whole, in all creative professions together and among performing artists in the third quarter of 2023.

nx 1.000
nx 1.000
nx 1.000

Source: CBS

The different practices within the cultural and creative sector also provide a better insight into broader characteristics of the different domains. For example, the cultural and creative sector, like the rest of the Netherlands, has a difference in gender distribution when it comes to working hours. While women are over-represented in larger part-time jobs (20-35 hours per week), men are over-represented in full-time jobs. Although this difference is smaller than in the Dutch labor market as a whole, there is a difference the professional groups. Among performing artists, just over 40 percent of women have a full-time job. In the visual arts, women have the majority in full-time jobs with more than 55 percent. In graphic designers and architecture, the number of full-time jobs held by women has increased significantly, by 31 and 50 percent respectively. Although the majority of full-time jobs are still occupied by men. The chance that market forces alone play a role in these differences is small. It should be noted that, although the proportion of women among graduates of HBO art courses is higher than among the total of HBO graduates, relatively many men are employed among artists (CBS 2021).

Working hours for men and women

These figures indicate how many hours per week men and women work for graphic designers, architects and visual artists.

nx 1.000
nx 1.000
nx 1.000

Source: CBS

A similar difference between numbers of graduates and working artists can be seen among 'people with a migration background'. Although the share of people with a migration background among graduates of HBO arts courses is increasing more strongly than among the total group of graduates of HBO courses, this picture is only very limited when we look at workers in the sector. This information is known from the classification into professions. There you can see that there has been a difference among artists over the years more and more workers with a migration background are, but this share does not come close to the proportions graduates. However, no figures are available for this per domain.

Alumni and graduates of higher professional education courses

These figures show the percentage of alumni with a migration background and the percentage of women among graduates of all full-time HBO courses and full-time HBO arts courses (KUO).


Source: ROA

Fair Practice

The vulnerable labor market position of workers in the cultural sector requires a sector-wide approach. The Fair Practice Code has offered a framework since 2017 to enable sustainable, fair and transparent entrepreneurship and work for everyone in this sector (Leden 2022). The code is based on five core values ​​– solidarity, sustainability, diversity, trust and transparency – which have been translated into concrete guidelines and agreements. However, its implementation still requires some effort. Although the sector indicates that it largely agrees with the ambitions of the Fair Practice Code, there are critical voices about, among other things, the financial pressure that compliance with the code places, especially for small organizations. There is an emphatic call from the sector for politicians to make a substantial contribution to making compliance with the code (financially) possible (Ibid.).

Platform ACCT is the program together with partners fairPACCT started to translate the Fair Practice Code for the entire sector into concrete tools for application in practice. They organize, among other things chain tables in which those involved per subsector enter into discussions to make collective agreements. This program will expire at the end of 2024.

Fair Pay

Fair Pay is high on the agenda within Fair Practice. Former State Secretary Uslu has in Principles for Cultural Subsidies 2025-2028 indicated that Fair Pay 'has a major priority' and should be the starting point for all workers in the cultural sector. This requires additional financial support.

Research shows that the additional costs of Fair Pay in the cultural sector are 29,2 million euros. Of this, 17,8 million euros relates to multi-yearly subsidized organizations and 11,3 million to project-based subsidized organizations. Just under half of these additional costs consist of inadequate remuneration, and more than half of unpaid structural overtime. Based on this research, former State Secretary Uslu released an additional 36,4 million euros for Fair Pay. In addition to the additional costs mentioned, 149 million euros are needed for indexation to make Fair Pay possible before 2025 (Geukema et al. 2023).

In absolute amounts, the total additional costs of Fair Pay are by far the highest for festivals, music, and the visual arts and creative industries. These three subsectors have relatively many (medium) small organizations that largely rely on self-employed people, which usually leads to high additional costs for fair remuneration (Ibid.).

The additional costs are largely concentrated among small organizations. This is because they often have less social security, have a tight budget and therefore work with (underpaid) self-employed people. Across the sector, self-employed people are more often underpaid than salaried employees and they perform an above-average amount of unpaid overtime.

Awareness of the importance of Fair Pay and Fair Practice has increased since 2019, but financial resources have not grown proportionately. The coming period will focus on how the sector can realize Fair Pay in a sustainable manner. For example, extra money has been made available for BIS institutions, but fair remuneration is still not feasible for many small organizations. This weakens the labor market position of the entire cultural sector (Geukema et al. 2023). Moreover, not all parts of the cultural sector have a collective labor agreement or remuneration guidelines. Platform ACCT develops practical instruments for the subsectors in which these guidelines are missing (Platform ACCT 2023).

Further development

Better insight into the different practices that characterize the individual domains makes it possible to paint a clearer picture of what the consequences are per domain when the sector as a whole is faced with challenges. Greater solidarity among workers in the sector, one of the important principles in the Fair Practice Code, is better when it is clearer who is affected in what way and to what extent by developments and policy choices.

On the one hand, this can be done by making greater efforts to gain a better picture of the composition of workers in different domains through research. To see what the incomes are made up of and what motivations underlie them, as shown in the study, for example Does passion pay off? happens in Flanders. With attention to the distinction between salaried workers and the position of self-employed persons. However, a better picture of career development and the effects of the infrastructure within which work is financed and organized is also needed. In which parts is market forces a realistic option, and where is this unfeasible or undesirable? Where are flexible employment relationships preferred and where are permanent ones, and why? But also, how much room is there within the various domains to actually innovate professional practice? Platform ACCT is already working on answering some of these questions and, in collaboration with Kunsten '92, presented the Fair Practice Lab to concretize a vision of Fair Practice in collaboration with organizations that suits the individual organization.

Subsequently, there is a call for the content and implementation of a research agenda surrounding the labor market (Vinken et al. 2023). The Boekman Foundation, in collaboration with Platform ACCT, will take the initiative to implement this research agenda, and will involve partners such as the Arts Association, the Creative Coalition and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

The vulnerable position of workers in the sector, especially self-employed persons, will also require attention in the coming period. In addition, the uncertainty that political shifts entail may contribute to the postponement of necessary and structural reforms that can sustainably strengthen the labor market and professional practice in the cultural and creative sector.

On this page we will link revenues from the above initiatives to other insights and data in the future.

Would you like to know more about the theme of Professional Practice?

View more data on the theme Professional Practice in the Dashboard of the Culture Monitor.

Want to read more about professional practice? Follow the following link for a list of available literature in the Knowledge base of the Boekman Foundation.

The previous editions of the text on this theme page can be found here: 2021, 2022.


Allen, J., B. Belfi and T. Huijgen (2022) HBO students in corona times: a longitudinal study into the work and personal experiences of HBO students-graduates. Maastricht:  Research center for education and the labor market.

CBS (2021)'Monitor Artists and other workers with a creative profession, 2021'. On:, October 6.

CBS (2022)'Turnover and income position of self-employed people in the cultural sector'. On:, 21th of July.

CBS (2023)'Labor market cultural and creative sector 2010-2023Q3'. On:, December 18.

Eurostat (2023) Culture Statistics. Luxembourg: Eurostat.

Goudriaan, R. (et al.) (2021) Unequally affected, unequally supported: effects of the corona crisis in the cultural sector. Amsterdam/Utrecht/The Hague: Boekmanstichting/SiRM/Significant APE.

Goudriaan, R. (et al.) (2023) Unequally affected, unequally supported II: effects of the corona crisis in the cultural sector. Amsterdam/Utrecht: Boekmanstichting/SiRM.

Jong, J. de, J. Kolsteeg and N. Schram (2021) “Artists don't stop”…..but the position of many cultural self-employed people is precarious: research into the professional practice and biotope of independent art teachers and artistic supervisors. Utrecht: LKCA.

Leden, J. van der (2022). 'The Fair Practice Code: firmly on the agenda, but still a lot of work to be done'. In: Boekman Extra, jrg. 2022, no. 37, 1-13.

Loots, E. and A. van Witteloostuijn (2022) Incomes and earning capacity in creative sectors. Rotterdam: Erasmus University Rotterdam and Vrije Universiteit.

Meissnitzer, H. et al. (2023) The Status and Working Conditions of Artists and Cultural and Creative Professionals. Report of the OMC Working Group of Member States' Experts. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Platform ACCT et al. (2023) Practical instruments Fair Pay. Amsterdam: Platform ACCT.

Council for Culture (2024) Access to culture. On the way to a new order in 2029. The Hague: Council for Culture.

ROA (2023) Fact sheet HBO Monitor 2022: the labor market position of HBO graduates. The Hague: Association of Universities of Applied Sciences.

Rutten, P., W. Manshanden and F. Visser (2024) Creative Industry Monitor 2023. Hilversum: Media Perspectives.

Vinken, H., B. Broers and H. Mariën (2023) The labor market position of self-employed people in the cultural and creative sector. An exploration of existing figures and an overview of white spots. Tilburg: HTH Research.

Accountability image

Unmute us/ Photography: Lisa Maatjens