6. Cultural participation and consumption
Last update: July, 2021
Cultural participation is one of the focal points of Swiss cultural policy. At the federal level, it is one of three central axes of action defined in the Culturel Dispatch 2021-2024 and was already set as a priority in the last funding period (2016-2020). With the help of the Working Group on Cultural Participation, the National Cultural Dialogue published a handbook on cultural participation in 2019, in which strategies and challenges are reflected. In the introduction of this central document, the field is described thus:
"Cultural participation strengthens coexistence and cohesion in a diverse and individualised society. That is why all people should have access to cultural life and cultural heritage. Cultural participation takes place locally, in the neighbourhoods and associations, in the cultural houses and social institutions of the country. In order to promote participation, various approaches and measures are needed that address different sections of the population - from cultural mediation and support for amateur culture to the removal of barriers for special target groups."
Nationaler Kulturdialog [Hrsg.]: Kulturelle Teilhabe. Ein Handbuch. Zürich: Seismo. (2019), S. 5.
The "Cultural participation" action axis will be further developed in the 2021-2024 funding period in the areas of "musical education" (Youth and Music), "arts outreach" (Pro Helvetia) and "equal opportunities for women and men in the cultural sector" in all relevant areas (training, subsidisation, programming, representation in cultural institutions, etc.) (BAK and Pro Helvetia).
Three examples of the Federal Office of Culture's promotion of cultural participation:
Swiss Youth Theatre Festival in Aarau: Youth theatre groups from all parts of the country meet annually in Aarau for exchange and networking.
"KulturLegi" (Caritas): Caritas' "KulturLegi" makes cultural events offered by around 1000 organisations affordable for people in Switzerland who are affected by or at risk of poverty.
"Kultur Inklusiv": The "Kultur Inklusiv" label is awarded to cultural institutions that are committed to promoting the holistic inclusion of people with disabilities as creators of culture, as audiences and as employees. The responsible agency is Pro Infirmis' Kultur inklusiv as a centre of competence for inclusive culture in Switzerland. Started as a pilot project in the Canton of Berne in mid-2014, over 90 cultural institutions have now been signed up as label holders (as of 2021).
Many activities are planned and implemented at city or cantonal level, for example the "Museum Night" format, which is particularly popular with a younger audience and offers free admission to various museums and institutions for the duration of one night. The Museums Night Basel in 2019, for example, was attended by almost 38 000 visitors.
The "Swiss Museum Pass" is a programme which offers admission to over 500 museums all over Switzerland. Switzerland also participates in international programmes such as the "European Heritage Days", launched by The Council of Europe in 1985.
Language is often a barrier to accessing public services and limits opportunities for (cultural) participation. In addition to the official national languages, Pro Helvetia also communicates in English, for example, thus opening up application procedures and funding instruments. The administration of the City of Geneva, for example, goes one step further: it adapts its communication to the multilingualism of the population and translates various programmes, flyers or ordinances into the five languages most commonly spoken in the city (English, Spanish, Arabic, Albanian, Portuguese).
Private Sector and historical perspective
As in other fields of cultural promotion in Switzerland, the private sector plays an important role with regard to cultural participation. The country’s largest retail company, Migros, has a particularly important role in supporting culture in Switzerland. Its founder Gottlieb Duttweiler suggested, as early as 1941, the idea of a cultural percentage (a fixed share of Migros' annual turnover donated for cultural and social purposes), with the aim of making cultural offerings and cultural education accessible to the widest possible audience. He proposed that Migros should get involved "where the entrepreneur shows no interest and the state is no longer able to solve the tasks" (for more about Migros see chapter 7.3). While the early Swiss cultural policy focused on self-assurance and the preservation of cultural heritage, the demand for a "culture for all" as a guiding idea also found its way into Switzerland at the end of the 1960s with the corresponding debates in the Federal Republic of Germany. A basic cultural democratic approach along the "broad" cultural concept of UNESCO manifested itself in the so-called Clottu Report of 1975 (Eléments pour une politique culturelle suisse), which was commissioned by the Department of Home Affairs.
Last update: July, 2021
Table 2: People who participated in or attended a certain cultural activity during the last 12 months in Switzerland (in % of the population, over 3 available years)
|Activities heavily subsidised by the state|
|Theatre, Dance, Opera*||2018: 1.4 Mio. visits|
|Ballet or dance performance****||26%||2019: 26%|
|Library or media library****||43.9%||2019: 42.7%|
|Museums* / **||2018: 13.3 Mio. visits|
|Art Museums****||57%||2019: 53.5%|
|Monuments**** (Monument, historical or archaeological site)||70.1%||2019: 73.8%|
|Activities without large public subsidies|
|Festivals (Music, theatre, film, etc.)***||37.8%||2019: 46.5%|
|Cinema*||2019: 12.506 mio visits|
|Film Festivals*||2019: 621.200 admissions|
|Music concerts and Music Festivals*||2018: 5.5 Mio. Visitors|
|To read books not related to a profession or studies*** (at least one book per year)||78%||2019: 78%|
|To read books (total)*** (at least one book per year)||83%||2019: 83%|
|In digital format (Usually use), E-Books***||15%||2019: 25%|
|To read comics (total, without the French part (Romandie))***||2019: 16-17%|
|To read comics (only in the French part (Romandie))***||2019: 31%|
|To listen to music (Usually listen)***||2019: 96%|
|directly on the Internet***||2014: 56%||2019: 68%|
|Mobile phone***||2014: 45%||2019: 64%|
|use Spotify***** (Total population aged 15 and over)||2020: 31%|
|To watch television (Usually watch)*** Source: Federal Statistical Office: Kulturverhalten in der Schweiz Wichtigste Ergebnisse 2019 und Vergleich mit 2014 Link||2014: 134 minutes per day||2019: 119 minutes per day|
|TV streaming directly on broadcaster websites***** (Total population aged 15 and over)||2020: 35%|
|To watch Youtube***** (Total population aged 15 and over)||2020: 75%|
|To watch Netflix***** (Total population aged 15 and over)||2020: 35%|
|To listen to the radio*** Source: Federal Statistical Office: Kulturverhalten in der Schweiz Wichtigste Ergebnisse 2019 und Vergleich mit 2014 Link||2014: 100 minutes per day||2019: 92 minutes per day|
|Directly on the Internet|
|To play videogames*** Source: Federal Statistical Office: Kulturverhalten in der Schweiz Wichtigste Ergebnisse 2019 und Vergleich mit 2014 Link||2014: 55% of pop.||2019: 55% of pop.|
|Use Social Media***** (Young people 15-24; at least occasional use)|
|2014: 43%||2020: 82%|
|2014: 82%||2020: 34%|
* Federal Office of Culture: Taschenstatistik Kultur in der Schweiz 2020 Link
** Federal Statistical Office: Museumslandschaft und Museumsbesuche in der Schweiz: Entwicklung über 5 Jahre (2021) Link
***Federal Statistical Office: Kulturverhalten in der Schweiz Wichtigste Ergebnisse 2019 und Vergleich mit 2014 Link (Sample survey)
****Federal Statistical Office: Kulturverhalten - Besuch von Kultureinrichtungen und -anlässen, nach soziodemografischen Merkmalen (2021) Link
*****IGEM · Interessengemeinschaft elektronische Medien: IGEM-Digimonitor 2020 Link
Table 3: People who have carried out artistic activities in Switzerland in the last 12 months by type of activity, in % of total population
|Painting or drawing* (draw, paint, make sculptures or engrave)||21%||21%|
|Playing an instrument*||17%||18%|
|Music students (Children/Youth)**||2019: 296.000|
|Writing* (write poems, short stories, novels or a diary)||14%||15%|
|Creative work on the computer (graphic or musical)*||17%||15%|
|Rap / Poetry Slam||2%||2%|
* Federal Statistical Office: Kulturverhalten in der Schweiz Wichtigste Ergebnisse 2019 und Vergleich mit 2014 (S. 12) (Sample survey)
** VMS - Verband Musikschulen Schweiz: Bericht zur Statistik 2020 des VMS «Die Musikschulen der Schweiz in Zahlen» Link
The most important findings on the cultural behaviour of the Swiss population are summarised below (Source for all of the following data: Federal Office of Culture: Culture in Switzerland - Pocket Statistics (2019)):
Switzerland has a high number of visits to cultural institutions: over 70 per cent of the Swiss population visited at least one museum, concert, or monument in 2014, and just under half went to the theatre (47%). The proportion of people who regularly visit cultural institutions (more than three times a year) is around 20%. Most of this population group lives in cities and/or is young, and more highly educated citizens are more culturally active. There are also disparities in access to culture in the statistics. Almost 85% of the population are satisfied with their regional cultural offer, less so for rural inhabitants and young people. Half of the population (51%) do not have enough free time to attend cultural activities and a third of the population do not have enough financial means to do so. Almost 75% of the population indicates their cultural practices are linked with seeking a distraction, even though this doesn't exclude the interest or curiosity for discovery that represents 80% of people surveyed.
In total, almost two-thirds of the population practice a creative activity. Almost a fifth of the people participating in these statistics enjoy amateur practices in photography, drawing, painting or music. Even if the number of people that practice their cultural activities is fewer than the number of people attending cultural events, they do so more frequently (at least once a week). These activities include singing, music, dancing, rap/slam jams or writing (including blogs). It remains a way of approaching culture that touches particularly young people from 15-29 years.
60% of Swiss citizens engage in volunteering within an association or organisation, whether it is sports, cultural associations related to cultural communities, or event-related organisation (choir, theatre, cinema, exhibitions). This participation can be singular or ongoing. One of Switzerland's particularities is the number of amateur associations and the fundamental importance of such cultural participation. The biggest amateur associations are The Swiss Music Association (around 71 000 members), Swiss Choir Union (around 43 000), The Swiss Association of Amateur Theatre (around 27 000 members), the National Federation of Swiss Costumes (around 20 000 members), the Federal Association of Yodellers (around 18 000 members) and the Federal Society of the Orchestras (around 6 200 members).
Music is the most popular form of cultural practice and participation. Almost 95% of the population listen to music in private, and 70% go to concerts. On the practising side, 20% of the population sing, 17% make some sort of music and 9% dance. Almost every second person has attended music lessons for at least a year at some time in their life. Today, however, only every fifth person plays an instrument. Persons under the age of 30 play an instrument more frequently (28%) than those aged 60 or over (13%). The most favourite instruments include the piano and guitar.
The favourite styles of music among the Swiss population are pop and rock, followed by classical music. Classical music events attract more people in the German part of Switzerland, French music in the French part and jazz, funk and country on the Italian part.
The music scene is very diverse, both in sounds and spaces, from small underground clubs to big concert halls, festivals, and operas. Switzerland has 13 full-time classical Orchestras, such as the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, and the Zürcher Kammerorchester.
According to the Swiss Federation of Music Venues and Festivals (PETZI), its 187 members are 60% clubs and 40% festivals, with 11 940 events in 2017 involving around 16 060 artists (69% Swiss artists) and attended by 2.6 million spectators.
The 42 members of the Swiss Music Promoters Association (SMPA) organised 1 900 concerts, performances and festivals, with a total of 5.5 million spectators in 2018. In total, 3 300 artists participated, and 40% of them were Swiss. The total gain for the sector is CHF 382 million, involving around 22 500 volunteers and employing 374 full-time professionals.
An interesting statistic is the growing market for vinyl records, that has increased five-fold since 2013, with a total of 260 000 vinyls sold in 2017. Digital and streaming services have also gone up by a significant 97% from 2010 to 2017.
For more data see chapter 3.1.4
In 2018, 2073 films were shown in Swiss cinemas, with 11 740 410 tickets sold in 605 venues (around CHF 179 million of revenues). Swiss films make up 8.5% of the cinema product, with 745 548 tickets sold (including productions where Switzerland was a minority participant). There were also 17 main film festivals that operated in 2017, with 630 000 spectators and over 2 500 films participating. There are many small and medium cinemas that are spread in the regions and have a diverse offer.
Regarding home-entertainment, in 2017 the market generated CHF 180 million, from which 87.3 million came from DVDs or physical objects. This number has dropped off by 24.3% between 2016 and 2017. Digital sales (VoD or electronic sell-through) have risen, with a benefit of CHF 92.7 million generated, against CHF 79.5 million in 2016. With 93% of the population having access to the Internet, these digital trends have to be more closely examined.
Theatre, Dance, and Opera
There are many spaces in Switzerland to host theatre, dance and opera performances, from small spaces to festivals.
During 2018 the biggest professional Swiss theatres hosted 6 400 performances (on-site and touring). These events brought 1.5 million spectators. The Zürich Opernhaus is the most visited theatre, with 245 517 spectators, followed by the Basel Theatre (180 766), St-Gall Theatre (155 740), the Zürich Schauspielhaus (147 484), the Bern Konzert Theatre (130 066) and the Luzern Theatre (73 684). Subventions from public funds to professional theatres were CHF 334 million during the 2017/2018 season. These theatres usually have their own troupes and buildings. For smaller and independent scenes, some cities make theatres available.
Dance and theatre festivals play an important role, facilitating exchanges, diversity and different formats to come together. A study from the Bern University in 2010 identified 380 different spaces where independent opera, theatre, and dance performances took place and attracted 1.7 million spectators.
In 2018, the 535 amateur theatre associations from the Zentralverband Schweizer Volkstheater gave around 4 300 performances, which hosted 712 000 spectators.
Books, e-Books, and Comics
In 2014, 83% of the population has read at least one book in the previous year; almost 30% read more than a book per month. Women from tertiary education and the group of 15-29 year olds read the most.
In 2017, around 804 libraries held 85 million physical media, 7 376 journals, and 23 052 e-Books in Switzerland. These libraries had 1.4 million active users, who borrowed almost 44.5 million items. In 2018, more than 10 262 books (titles) were published in Switzerland: 41.2% in English, followed by 34.3% in German, 17.5% in French and 2% in Italian. Around 15 million books were bought in German-speaking Switzerland, followed by French-speaking Switzerland with 10 million copies, of which 80% are imported books.
Last update: July, 2021
In 2018, the average monthly cultural expenditure (incl. media) of a Swiss private household amounted to CHF 347 (a total of 15.8 billion CHF). According to the Federal Statistical Office, significantly more was spent per household on culture and media (CHF 347) than on health (CHF 242), clothing and footwear (CHF 191) or alcoholic beverages and tobacco products (CHF 100), but significantly less than on housing and energy (CHF 1 456), transport (CHF 753), food and non-alcoholic beverages (CHF 634) or hotels and restaurants (CHF 589).
The majority of cultural and media expenditure in 2018 was on content and services (299 CHF) with internet services by far the largest expenditure item (168 CHF), followed by audiovisual content and services (51 CHF) and television and radio (43 CHF) and printed content (40 CHF).
Table 4: Household cultural expenditure by expenditure purpose, 2014 and 2018
Monthly Household expenditure per Household in CHF
Monthly Household expenditure per Household in CHF
|I. Books and Press||46||40|
|Books and brochures||16||14|
|Press (Newspapers and magazines)||30||26|
|II. Cultural Content and Services|
|Theatre and concerts||17||15|
|Museums, exhibitions, libraries, zoological gardens, etc.||6||6|
|Music and dance classes||13||12|
|Contributions to cultural associations||2||2|
|Film and video||3||1|
|Music and sound||2||2|
|Television and radio||48||43|
|Rental of film and audio carriers||-||1|
|Other services in the field of culture and entertainment||4||6|
|III. Audiovisual equipment and accessories|
|Photo and film cameras, incl. accessories||8||5|
|Television and video sets, incl. accessories||14||9|
|Radio and audio equipment||7||6|
|Writing and drawing materials||8||7|
|Information Processing and Internet|
|Internet (incl. combined subscriptions)||163||168|
|Computer and modem||23||12|
|TOTAL (Cultural expenditure)||378||347|
Source: Federal Statistical Office: Kulturausgaben der privaten Haushalte in der Schweiz - Übersichtstabellen (2020)
Last update: July, 2021
Around two-thirds of the population engage in a cultural activity. Associations are an important element of the Swiss cultural landscape: 61% of Swiss people are involved in an association and every sixth person in a cultural association (2019). In the countryside, where institutional cultural offerings are often sparser, people are more likely to get involved in cultural associations (19%) than in urban areas (15%).
With regard to cultural centres, there is a great diversity, from the cultural offer to the funding model:
For example, the Kaserne Basel cultural centre is the largest centre for the independent contemporary theatre, dance and performance scene as well as for innovative popular music in north-western Switzerland: it receives subsidies primarily at the cantonal level (over 13 million CHF for the period from 2021 to 2024; around two thirds of the total turnover) and is supported by foundations, partners and private sponsors.
Public-private partnerships are often the rule, such as with the Dada House in Zurich. Significant for being the birthplace of the world-famous Dada movement in 1916, the building was rescued from near-death due to a planned building usage change and has been turned into the Cabaret Voltaire, a cultural centre, which, among others, is extending aspects of the avant-garde into the 21st century. Today, it is primarily financed by gastronomic income and income from rentals for closed events (more than half of the income; based on the annual financial statement 2018/2019) and about one third by public funds (for the years 2021 to 2024 an annual contribution of 102 414 CHF, plus the waived rent of 212 000 CHF and project-based contributions).
On the administrative side, related institutions may be located in the corresponding cultural, youth, or social domains.
A notable support system in the field of youth culture can be found in Basel: Since 2014, the promotion of youth culture has been anchored in the Cultural Promotion Act of Basel-Stadt, with the cultural policy goal of young people's active participation in culture. Since then, the canton has taken on a pioneering role throughout Switzerland, starting with the "Youth Culture Flat Rate" funding format in 2014 ("Jugendkulturpauschale" Annual budget of 200 000 CHF for 2019-2022): In addition to funding individual cultural projects by young people (age limit 30), projects are supported that improve the framework conditions for youth cultural creation (e.g. platforms, infrastructures, information). An important regional institution in the area of pop music is RFV Basel: With its budget of over 650 000 CHF, it is considered a national reference institution and centre of excellence in the promotion of pop music. The cultural budget for alternative, club, youth, pop or subculture of all genres in Basel-Stadt will be increased in future: On 29 November 2020, the "tip initiative" was accepted with a yes vote of just under 58 per cent, which allocates five per cent of the cultural budget of Basel-Stadt (instead of about 3.5 per cent as before) be used for this area of active youth culture.
 Federal Statistical Office: Kulturverhalten in der Schweiz Wichtigste Ergebnisse 2019 und Vergleich mit 2014: Link
 Federal Statistical Office: Kulturverhalten in der Schweiz Wichtigste Ergebnisse 2019 und Vergleich mit 2014, pp. 12: Link