7. Financing and support
Last update: July, 2021
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).
Last update: July, 2021
Table 5: Public cultural expenditure by level of government, 2018
|Level of government||Total expenditure in million CHF||% share of total|
Source: Federal Statistical Office: Culture funding by the public sector (2020; data from 2018)
Last update: July, 2021
Table 6: Public cultural expenditure (all levels of government) by sector, 2018
|Field/Domain||Total in million CHF *||Total in %|
|Music and theatre||831.2||28.22%|
|Libraries and literature||371.2||12.60%|
|Preservation of historical monuments and cultural heritage||270.7||9.19%|
|Museums and visual arts||579.4||19.67%|
|Film and cinema||79.7||2.71%|
|General promotion of culture||676.4||22.97%|
|Research and development in culture and media||2.4||0.08%|
Last update: July, 2021
In addition to public support for cultural, educational or media institutions, services, organisations as part of the cultural, social and economic ecosystem that affects the practice, promotion and position of artists and creatives, Switzerland has a wide range of different support schemes for artists. At all levels – federal, cantonal, communal – similar approaches can be observed:
- grants or contributions for the training of artists;
- prizes via competitions (see chapter 7.2.3);
- support granted to artists' studios abroad and in Switzerland;
- official Swiss contributions to international and national exhibitions (Pro Helvetia); and
- acquisition of works of art (e.g. for the National Art Collection (only by the Federal Office of Culture)).
- support for festivals, events, conferences etc.
On the federal level, the Federal Office of Culture (FOC)and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia are the two central bodies with promotional activities in the field of cultural creation. FOC’s tasks include improving the institutional framework conditions, drafting enactments in the field of culture and and promotion activities in the area of cultural creativity (films, prizes and awards, support for cultural organisations).
Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia promotes artistic creation and cultural exchange in Switzerland and works to promote Swiss culture abroad. It acts autonomously in a wide range of cultural sectors, with the exception of film. It grants awards, work grants and production funding to cultural practitioners (Artistic Creation) and promotes projects in the area of art and culture mediation. It further facilitates the launch of professional careers in the arts (Emerging Artists). Examples to show the spectrum of programmes in this area are: the Premio Young Theatre and Dance Competition in collaboration with 35 theatre and dance institutions from all over Switzerland, which provides performance opportunities as well as production contributions for young artists (Pro Helvetia is the main partner). In the field of visual arts, for example, Pro Helvetia supports curatorial initiatives by self-organised art spaces on behalf of aspiring artists in Switzerland. In the field of literature, Pro Helvetia introduced a mentoring programme for emerging literary translators in 2010.
"Kunst am Bau" (Art in Public Spaces)
As an advisory commission to the Federal Office of Culture, the Federal Art Commission participates in the judging of various competitions for "Kunst am Bau" (art in architecture) organised by the Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics. Cantons and cities have their own funding practices in the area of Kunst am Bau / Art in Public Spaces. For example, the city of Zurich reserves 0.3 to 1.5 per cent of the construction costs (excluding land) for such projects in the cost estimate for new buildings, extensions and renovations. The canton of Thurgau usually uses 1 per cent of the construction sum for this purpose for building projects that cost more than 3 million CHF.
Social and economic framework
"Adequate compensation of cultural workers" is a priority in the work programme of the National Cultural Dialogue 2021-2024. Income and compensation of cultural actors and people participating in artistic processes are still very limited. According to a survey published by Suisseculture Sociale in 2016, more than half of the artists in Switzerland live in precarious circumstances despite additional non-artistic gainful employment. This situation is related to the lack of regulation of working conditions - even when recommendations are made - and seems to be an important issue in future cultural policy. As stated in the Cultural Dispatch 2021-2024, the Confederation intends to work towards appropriate compensation for cultural practitioners in the future when it provides financial support. Starting in 2021, the FOC and Pro Helvetia intend to gradually link their grants within Switzerland to the condition that grant recipients comply with the guidelines of the relevant industry associations on the compensation of cultural workers. In addition, federal funding will increasingly take into account functions and activities that have a significant impact on the creative process and the dissemination of artistic works, such as curation, editing, dramaturgy or mentoring.
In order to improve the compatibility of work and caregiving/family, since 2020 it has been possible to offset the costs of caregiving in the case of long films that are selectively supported by the BAK with a production contribution.
Last update: July, 2021
There is a great variety of funding instruments on the cantonal and municipal level for artists’ and artist-related promotion:
- contributions to works in and across all disciplines ("Werkbeiträge"/”Kreationsbeiträge”; "Contributions"/"bourses") between 10 000 and 30 000 CHF each,
- project contributions, purchases of works (a thousand CHF to more than 30 000 CHF),
- production or performance contributions, contributions for events (also in the form of deficit guarantees),
- contributions for publications (monographs, artists' books, specialist publications),
- "Werkjahre" (one-year-scholarships; "sabbatical years"; City of Zurich: 48 000 CHF per year and recipient),
- studio and travel grants, contributions to off spaces, translations, material, travel and transport costs for the participation of artists in exhibitions, festivals, fairs outside the respective region and contributions for arts and audience outreach projects ("Kulturvermittlung"; e.g. Basel-City: between 15 000 and 30 000 CHF).
Lotteries bring to the cantons more than CHF 500 million, redistributed in the sectors of sport and culture. In the Canton of Zurich, for example, 30% percent flows into the Culture Fund (Kulturfonds; around 23 million CHF). For the period from 2017 to 2021, all funds for artist-related project contributions, work contributions and awards in the Canton were financed from the lottery fund of the Canton of Zurich.
Swiss artists and social security: Suisseculture Sociale
According to a survey published by Suisseculture Sociale (SCS) in 2016, more than half of the artists in Switzerland live in precarious circumstances despite additional non-artistic gainful employment and have no pension provision beyond the AHV. In 2021, SCS has published new survey-based data on the income situation of professional cultural workers. Whereas in 2016 50% of cultural workers earned CHF 40 000 or less, in 2021 the proportion has risen to just under 60% (detached from the effects of the current Covid 19 crisis, according to SCS). This corresponds to a net monthly wage of around 3 000 CHF, whereas the gross median wage in Switzerland is around 6 500 CHF per month. According to the study, the social security of cultural workers in Switzerland in old age and in the event of loss of income also remains inadequate. As part of the study, SCS presented concrete directions and recommendations for action in order to achieve necessary reforms in the field of social security at the federal level on the levels of (1) information and counselling, (2) conditions for funding and (3) new solutions in social insurances - cultural sector as a pilot sector.
Established with funding from the Federal Office of Culture, "Suisseculture Sociale" is a social capital fund for artists in need; it operates according to the principle of subsidiarity. More specifically, large umbrella organisations like SUISA or Pro Litteris provide such funds to their members. Typical of Switzerland are the numerous small private funds for artists.
All of this, nevertheless, cannot hide the fact that a comprehensive social security framework for artists is non-existent in Switzerland. The Culture Promotion Act, enacted at the end of 2009, stipulates (Article 9) that the Confederation and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia must transfer a percentage of the financial assistance granted to creative artists to the individual artist's pension fund or another form of financial provision. The Federal Council determines the percentage (see chapter 4.1.3).
The Cultural Fund (Kulturfonds), which is administered by the BAK, has an artistic and social character and supports professional artists with grants of between CHF 2 000 and CHF 10 000, taking into account the economic situation of the applicants.
Copyrights: the Swiss collective administration societies
The five Swiss collective administration societies - ProLitteris, SSA, SUISA, SUISSIMAGE and SWISSPERFORM - manage the rights of their members, including cultural practitioners and artists from different sectors. ProLitteris, for example, is responsible for the management of rights to literary and dramatic works, works of visual art or photography, in the areas of broadcasting rights, reprography, image rights or lending rights (e.g. library compensation). As a cooperative society for composers, lyricists and music publishers, SUISA is responsible for income from music copyright in Switzerland and abroad, an important source of income for music-related artists in Switzerland and Liechtenstein: including broadcasting rights (2020: 64. 3 million CHF), performance rights (2019: 52.1 million CHF), reproduction rights (2020: 4.3 million CHF), streaming/download (2019: 5.5 million CHF), blank carrier remuneration in the audio sector (2020: 7.8 million CHF) and total revenue from abroad (2020: 11.6 million CHF).
Last update: July, 2021
The Confederation awards various prizes and awards to honour the achievements of Swiss artists and thus draw attention to their importance at national and international level. The Confederation's awards and prizes are a means of promoting art and culture. The Federal Office of Culture is responsible for the Swiss Prizes, which honour outstanding works, while the Grand Prix honours the careers of artists.
Based on a competitive process and portfolio submissions, prizes are awarded for productions and works that are particularly innovative or original, that pursue unusual approaches, and that demonstrate professional execution. Awards and honours, however, are conferred based on prior nomination by extra-parliamentary commissions named by the Federal Council (no portfolio submissions) and are meant to acknowledge a long-standing and important artistic career.
Prizes are awarded in art (art, architecture, and education), design, literature, dance, theatre, and music. The Swiss Prizes are often awarded in the context of important events in the various fields (Art Basel, LabelSuisse Festival, Swiss Theater Encounter).
From 2021, and in addition to a Swiss Grand Prix Performing Arts / Hans Reinhart Ring, the Federal Office of Culture will award 2-3 dance prizes, 6-7 theatre prizes and one prize each for a dance and a theatre production in the field of the performing arts. A special award for children's and youth literature will also be established to honour a body of work.
Schweizerkulturpreise.ch is the central resource on the culture awards presented by the Federal Office of Culture.
Cantons and cities also award prizes and special awards, for instance, in recognition of particular services to bringing the arts and culture to a wider audience. Cultural awards are also conferred in the form of annual scholarships ("Werkjahre" (one year scholarships; "sabbatical years"; City of Zurich: 48 000 CHF per year) and work grants for outstanding achievements including in literature, electronic music, theatre, dance, jazz/rock/pop, interdisciplinary projects, and comics (e.g. "Werkbeiträge"/ "Kreationsbeiträge"; "Contributions"/ "bourses") of between 10 000 and 30 000 CHF each). Funding instruments for artists’ and artist-related promotion also include: production or performance contributions, contributions for publications (monographs, artists' books, specialist publications), studio and travel grants, contributions to travel and transport costs for the participation of artists in exhibitions, festivals, fairs outside the respective region and contributions for arts and audience outreach projects ("Kulturvermittlung"; e.g. Basel-City: between 15 000 and 30 000 CHF).
Smaller cantons and cities do not have such a multitude of schemes. They support artists in a more project-based way, for example, with state-lottery funding. Some cities jointly own artists' studios abroad.
Private cultural foundations and associations commission annual works in different sectors of the arts and culture and provide studios abroad for artists (these studios are often owned by the foundations or associations). Swiss foundations also play a role in the international field of art. For example, the Roswitha Haftmann Foundation Prize, worth 150 000 CHF, is the highest endowed European art prize.
An impressive directory of private and public grant-making institutions is available at https://www.culturalpromotion.ch/en/
Last update: July, 2021
In all cultural sectors, there are organisations that represent professional cultural workers and advocate for their interests. These organisations can be supported by the Confederation (FOC) with structural contributions on the basis of a call for proposals. Realigned in the 2016-2020 funding period, support has since focused on organisations of national importance (e.g. representation of language communities) that work to improve the working conditions of their members. With the newly considered discipline "Interactive Media", 12 organisations are currently supported in the funding period 2021-2024, with a total annual amount CHF 2 451 000:
- A*dS Authors of Switzerland
- ARF/FDS Swiss Association of Film Directors and Screenwriters
- DS Danse Suisse Professional Association of Swiss Dance Professionals
- GSFA Swiss Animated Film Group
- SBV Swiss Stage Association
- SDA Swiss Design Association
- SGDA Swiss Game Developers Association (annual contribution of CHF 11'900.-)
- SMV Swiss Musicians' Association
- SONART Musicians Switzerland
- SSFV Swiss Syndicate Film and Video
- t. Theatre Professionals Switzerland
- Visarte Professional Association of Visual Arts Switzerland (CHF 383 100.-, highest annual contribution)
A certain number of associations, including the authors’ rights collecting societies, have merged under the banner of "Suisseculture". The main tasks of cultural (umbrella) organisations are:
- lobbying (in the context of public decision-making procedures);
- material and immaterial support of artists (many associations have their own support funds and studios);
- to provide legal and financial advice;
- social help in difficult situations; and
- organisation of cultural events.
Last update: July, 2021
Private players such as foundations and sponsors play a significant role in the Swiss cultural sector when compared to other European countries. According to SwissFoundations, there are six times more foundations per capita in Switzerland than in the USA or Germany, more than 13 000 charitable foundations with total assets of just under CHF 100 billion. Around a quarter of all Swiss foundations support cultural projects, with up to half a billion CHF per annum directed towards cultural purposes. Swiss foundations also play a role in the international field of art. For example, the Roswitha Haftmann Foundation Prize, worth 150 000 CHF, is the highest endowed European art prize.
As mentioned in the Culture Dispatch 2021-2024, in addition to the charitable foundations, private companies support culture in the amount of approximately 370 million CHF annually, with sponsoring accounting for about 50 per cent of the total amount. (Swiss Federal Statistical Office: Kulturfinanzierung durch die Unternehmen, Neuchâtel 2003, p. 32ff.) One of the country's most important private promoters of culture is Migros, Switzerland's largest retail company, which – in simple terms - dedicates one per cent of its turnover to cultural purposes (Migros Culture Percentage). In 2020, 142 million CHF were spent on projects in the areas of culture, society, education, leisure and business. Migros has also set up cultural offices in the cities of Zurich (since 1998), Berne, Basel, Geneva and St. Gallen to support cultural practitioners off and online. The Kulturbüros have different funding models: The office in Basel, for example, is supported by a state contribution from the Canton of Basel-City (70 000 CHF in 2021).
The importance of the private sector's commitment to the Swiss cultural landscape is also evident in the museum sector, whose anchoring in private and local structures gives museums additional legitimacy. According to the Federal Office of Culture, the main funding bodies of Swiss museums (almost 1 100 museums in 2018) are evenly distributed between public and private actors, with cities and municipalities on the one hand, and associations on the other, being the most important funding bodies.
The data on the quantitative share of the private sector in the total volume of cultural promotion is insufficient: according to estimates, approximately every sixth to seventh CHF for cultural promotion comes from the private sector. A study (sample survey) on cultural policy in the cantons of Zurich, Glarus, Schaffhausen, both Appenzells, St. Gallen, Thurgau and the Principality of Liechtenstein, in the period from 2008 to 2018, showed only minor shifts over time in the financing structure of institutions and projects: the share of public funding for supported cultural institutions was between 40 and 47 per cent, and between 33 and 40 per cent for projects.
Public-private partnerships can be observed on all levels. One example is SWISS FILMS, a non-profit organisation and agency that supports the marketing and distribution of Swiss films nationally and internationally. In addition to support from private and public funds, SWISS FILMS has a performance-based contract with the Federal Office of Culture (2.66 million CHF in 2019).
Since around the mid-2010s, Crowdfunding has become an increasingly important way to finance projects. According to the FOC's Statistical Data on Culture in Switzerland (Taschenstatistik Kultur in der Schweiz 2020), the cultural and creative industries accounted around CHF 8.25 million of the funds raised via crowdfunding in Switzerland in 2019 (largest share: music, concerts, festivals). Around 650 cultural and creative industry projects were successfully financed via crowdfunding in 2019.
Wemakeit.ch, founded in 2012, is the biggest swiss crowdfunding platform. Here, too, a private-public partnership is evident: the development of wemakeit.ch was supported by the Ernst Göhner Foundation, the Migros Culture Percentage, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and by start-up funding from the Department of Culture of the city of Basel.
 Federal Office of Culture: Culture in Switzerland - Pocket Statistics 2020.
 Federal Office of Culture: Culture in Switzerland - Pocket Statistics (2020).
 Keller, Rolf. Kulturpolitik der Schweiz. In: Kompendium Kulturmanagement. Verlag Franz Vahlen, 2011, p. 130.
 Schwenkel, Christof; Ritz, Manuel; Stamm, Mélanie; La Mantia, Alexandra: Entwicklungen in der Kulturförderung in der Ostschweiz und im Fürstentum Liechtenstein seit 2008, Interface Politikstudien Forschung Beratung, Luzern, 2020.