Work and employment in the creative industries

Between July 2004 and January 2007, Joanneum Research and FORBA carried out a research project focusing on work and employment in selected subsectors of the ‘creative industries’ in the capital city, Vienna. The five subsectors examined were advertising, architecture, design (graphic, product and fashion), film, radio and video, and multimedia. As part of the project, a quantitative survey was carried out among 910 workers in Vienna’s creative industries.

The study carried out by Joanneum Research and FORBA investigated areas such as working conditions, career paths and strategies for coping with work pressure.

Workers’ profile

The majority of respondents in the five subsectors of the creative industries in Vienna were men. The survey included data on twice as many men as women. Apart from advertising, which seems attract more women (62%) than men, male workers predominate in the other four subsectors. Most workers (40%) were aged between 36 and 45 years. Design represents an exception in this case, as almost 50% of workers in this sector are younger, aged between 26 and 35 years.

Employment status and job satisfaction

In terms of employment status, almost half of all of those working in Vienna’s creative industries (46.5%) are either self-employed individuals or run their own businesses, while only 27% of respondents are employees. A quarter of all workers in the subsectors surveyed have more than one job, either as an employee or as a freelance worker, which confirms a popular prejudice about the creative industries.

The majority of workers in these subsectors have attained their desired employment status. Workers who are running their own companies are most satisfied with their jobs (90%). Similarly, more than two thirds of employees are content with their employment relationship. Half of all self-employed individuals, on the other hand, would rather run a business of their own (26%) or be employed (21%). Likewise, most workers having more than one job would prefer to run their own business. Thus, there is a strong tendency among people working in the creative industries to set up a company rather than seek employment with another company, despite the increased security on offer with a stable employment contract.

Working time

The average weekly working time in Vienna’s creative industries amounts to 44 hours. In addition to their work in the subsectors investigated, just over a quarter of all respondents (26%) have jobs in sectors outside the creative industries, resulting in an additional 17 hours of work a week. Overall, taking these additional hours into account, the average weekly working time for all respondents is as high as 49 hours a week. Moreover, the research revealed a strong connection between working time and employment status: people who run their own businesses work 52 hours a week on average, while employees work an average of 44 hours a week. It is interesting to note that the extent of working time also correlates to the age of workers: the older the respondents, the longer the working hours. Thus, for instance, workers aged 21–25 years work an average of 39 hours a week while people over 55 years of age have an average working week of 47 hours.

Interestingly, most workers in the creative industries seem to be quite satisfied with their working hours (scoring 2.7, on a scale ranging from 1 (very satisfied) to 5 (dissatisfied)). Nevertheless, there is a correlation between the level of satisfaction and actual working time; for example, people who work fewer hours tend to be more satisfied than individuals working longer working hours.

Furthermore, in view of these long hours, it is not surprising that work in the creative industries leaves little time for care responsibilities and causes problems in reconciling work and private life. Thus, it is interesting to note that fewer women (29%) than men (47%) have children to take care of.

Income levels

In 2004, the median annual net income in the sector ranged between €18,000 and €24,000. Income varies according to subsector, sex and employment status. More than one fifth of designers, for instance, earn less than €6,001 a year, whereas only 2% of those in broadcasting (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation only) find themselves in this income bracket. Up to 38% of people working in broadcasting earn between €24,001 and €36,000 a year. Similarly, self-employed individuals earn only between €6,001 and €12,000 a year. This is much less than the earnings of people who run their own businesses and employees, than women (47%) are in the categories of workers earning more than €18,000 a year. Women are less satisfied with their income than with working time and score 3.2 on the abovementioned satisfaction scale of working hours. Yet again, a correlation between the level of satisfaction and actual income can be identified: the higher the income, the higher the level of satisfaction.

Strategies to cope with work pressure

Among the most prevalent pressures of work in the creative industries are time pressure (2.3 on a scale ranging from 1 (major pressure) to 5 (no pressure)), working on several projects simultaneously (2.9), high demands on oneself (3.0) and high responsibility (3.1). In addition, workers feel added pressure concerning the future, in terms of securing future work (2.3), pension security (2.4), future income (2.4) and dependency on clients (2.5).

The survey respondents developed professional as well as private strategies to cope with pressures in their daily work. Among the professional strategies, reducing pressure by careful planning (72% of respondents agree), self-confidence and composure (64% agree) and seeking qualified support (55% agree) can be found. Private coping strategies encompass hobbies (59% agree), long holidays (57% agree) and not thinking about work during time off (47% agree). Furthermore, receiving support from colleagues (81% agree), friends (69% agree) or partners (68% agree) helps workers to deal with work-related stress. Most interesting is the fact that 21% of respondents consult therapists, doctors or coaches for support.


Reidl, S. and Steyer, F., Zwischen Unabhängigkeit und Zukunftsangst – Quantitative Ergebnisse zur Arbeit in den Wiener Creative Industries (in German) [Between independence and anxiety about the future – Quantitative results on work in Vienna’s creative industries], FORBA, Report No. 3, Vienna, January 2006.

Eichmann, H., Reidl, S., Schiffbänker, H. and Zingerle, M., Kunst/Dienst/Leistung – Innenansichten zur Arbeit in den Wiener Creative Industries (in German) [Art/Service/Performance – Inside views of work in Vienna’s creative industries], FORBA, Report No. 4, Vienna, May 2006

Marion Vogt, Working Life Research Centre (Forschungs- und Beratungsstelle Arbeitswelt, FORBA)

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