The FSO publishes annual data on public funding of culture.
Public cultural expenditure per capita in 2018 was the same as in 2014, at CHF 346. For 2018, it was equivalent to 0.41% of GDP. The share of cultural expenditure in the total expenditure of the public sector (Confederation, cantons, municipalities) rose from 1.5% (2008) to 1.7% (2018), and in terms of government expenditure (incl. social security) from 1.23% (2008) to 1.34% (2018). These values from 2018 largely correspond to the values from 2010.
In 2018, public cultural expenditure in Switzerland amounted to around CHF 2.94 billion. Of this, almost 1.44 billion (the biggest share: 48.9%) was spent by the municipalities (3.3% of total municipal expenditure), 1.19 billion (40.3%) by the cantons (2% of total cantonal expenditure) and 319.5 million (10.8%) by the federal government (0.5 % of total federal expenditure). For the period 2021-2024, 934.5 million CHF have been earmarked at the federal level to implement the envisaged cultural policy measures; this corresponds to around 0.3% of the total expenses of the Confederation (less than the previous 2016-2020 period).
The municipalities, the cantons and the Confederation use their cultural expenditure differently. As the FSO’s publication on Culture, Media and Information Society (2020) states:
“The municipalities mainly provide services in the immediate environment of the population, for example in the areas of libraries and literature as well as music and theatre. The cantons, on the other hand, are active in areas such as the preservation of historical monuments and the protection of cultural heritage. The Confederation, for its part, is most involved in cultural areas that are specifically part of its tasks or are of nationwide importance, such as the areas of ‘mass media’ and ‘film and cinema’. All three levels of government devote roughly the same proportion of their total expenditure to the area of ‘museums and visual arts’, namely between 17 and 22% each.”
In 2018, the largest provider of subsidies in the cultural sector are the cantons (around 700 million CHF), followed by the municipalities (around 600 million CHF) and the Confederation (just over 200 million CHF). The federal government’s subsidies correspond to almost two-thirds (65%) of its total expenditure on culture.
The largest shares of funding in 2018 went to the cultural sectors of film and cinema (21% of federal funding) and mass media (26%). Music and theatre are by far the most important cultural sectors for the cantons (41%) and the municipalities (50%).
According to the FSO, the average disposable income of private households per month in Switzerland was CHF 7069.- in 2018 (almost one third of the gross income of 10 114 CHF per month goes to the general public, to the tax office, to social insurance and compulsory health insurance contributions). Approximately 7.8% of disposable income was spent on entertainment, recreation, and culture. According to surveys by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the FSO, Switzerland ranks in the middle of Europe in this respect.
National fiscal equalisation (Nationaler Finanzausgleich, NFA)
In the interest of fair intercantonal competition and national cohesion in federalism, national fiscal compensation between the Confederation and the cantons or the cantons equalises economically and structurally determined differences between the cantons. The national financial equalisation system (CHF 5.2 billion in 2021; since 2008) consists mainly of resource equalisation and burden equalisation and pursues one essential goal: the economically strong cantons and the Confederation help the financially weaker ones. The equalisation of resources noticeably reduces inequalities in financial performance between the cantons (by about one third). The equalisation sum for resource equalisation (2021: 78.4%) has been set by law since 2020 and is financed by the Confederation to the tune of around two thirds and the cantons to the tune of one third. The equalisation of burdens financed by the Confederation (2021: 15.35%) supports mountain and central cantons that have to bear above-average costs that they cannot influence (socio-demographic and geographic-topographic factors).