Experimental statistics

Impact of Covid-19 on cultural industries


Experimental statistics on the impact of Covid-19 on cultural industries is a compilation of various data where breakdown by NACE Rev. 2 economic activity is possible. The statistics reveal a downturn in both employment and taxable wages in cultural industries between 2019 and 2020. Although it is not possible to assert that this decline is solely due to the Covid-19 outbreak, it is very likely that it started mainly for that reason.


The publication includes statistics for total taxable wages in cultural industries as well as register based employment in cultural industries. The information on total taxable wages is based on experimental statistics on taxable wages and employment is based on register-based employment statistics. Additionally, this publication includes a summary of the use of the government‘s general economic response packages by enterprises and organisations in cultural industries.


The main objective is to give an indication of the impact Covid-19 and any containment measures have had on cultural industries in Iceland.

Taxable wages in cultural industries decreased by 23% between 2019 and 2020

Updated: 28 October 2020

The year 2020 has brought a significant decrease to total taxable wages in cultural industries, decreasing by 22.9% from April 2019 to April 2020 compared with a 9.7% total decrease in all industries. Even though taxable wages in cultural industries increased again by 15.3% between April and August 2020 there still remains a 5.4% drop between August 2019 and 2020. In comparison, the total taxable wages for all industries increased by 1.2% between August 2019 and 2020.

The number of employers also decreased the most between April 2019 and 2020, by 5.9% total and 7.3% in cultural industries. The decrease was 5.3% between August 2019 and 2020 in total and 6.3% in cultural industries. Note that self-employed individuals who pay themselves calculated remuneration are not included in data on employers or taxable wages (see metadata).

Taxable wages in cultural industries by month 2019 og 2020

Register-based employment in cultural industries also decreased in the same period. Comparing 2020 with 2019 the situation was worst in May when main employment1 in cultural industries dropped by 10.1% and positions2 by 12.1%. In comparison with 2019 the decrease was slightly less in August than in May, or 9.1%. In August 2020 positions had also decreased by 6.2% between 2019 and 2020. Total employment decreased less, or by 6.2% from April 2019 to April 2020, whereas total positions decreased by 7.5%. In August total employment had decreased by 5.4% from 2020 and total positions by 5.2%.


According to data from the Directorate of Labour, over 27 thousand individuals were on part-time unemployment benefits on average per month in March, April and May 2020. Among those, on average 2.2% were employed in cultural industries. From June to August 2020, the average number of individuals on part-time unemployment benefits was 4,700 and 3.6% were employed in cultural industries. For comparison the proportion of employment in cultural industries was 3% of total employment in 2019.

7.4% of enterprises which took support loans are in cultural industries

Several enterprises and organisations in cultural industries have taken advantage of the government’s economic measures in response to Covid-19.

From March to September 2020, a total of 7,742 enterprises deferred tax payments and among those 457 are in cultural industries, or 5.9%. The average amount per enterprise in cultural industries was 916 thousand ISK compared with 1.45 million ISK per enterprise in other industries. The tax payments deferred by enterprises in cultural industries therefore corresponds to 3.8% of the total amount.

The second most common economic measure used by enterprises in cultural industries has been support loans, where the proportion of enterprises in cultural industries is also highest, or 7.4%. However, considerably fewer enterprises have in total used this measure or 612, of which 45 were in cultural industries. The average sum for enterprises in cultural industries was slightly lower in this measure, or 8.2 million ISK per enterprise, compared with 8.5 million ISK in other industries.

Slightly fewer enterprises in cultural industries had received closure subsidies or payment of wages during the term of notice, or 29 and 38. This is equivalent to 2.8% and 3.8% of the total number of enterprises within each measure.

1 When counting total main employment, each individual is only counted once per month. Economic activity is then categorized by the NACE Rev. 2 economic activity from which they have their highest taxable wages.

2 When counting positions, each individual is counted once per economic activity per month. One individual can therefore be counted more than once per month, but never more often than the sum of the economic activities in which the individual had taxable wages from in said month.


Impact of COVID-19 on cultural industries 201028 (xlsx)


Taxable wages and register-based employment are both based on data from Iceland Revenue and Customs. All those who qualify as employers according to the law are obliged to turn in monthly statements of accounts with specifications for anyone receiving taxable wages. Self-employed individuals operating with their personal social security number, who pay themselves wages in the form of calculated remuneration, are not included in the total for taxable wages but are included in register-based employment data. Taxable wages are in ISK and on current price levels for each month.

The numbers are preliminary and may be subject to changes over time. Users should note that the data may be subject to minimal changes due to possible late transfers of some enterprises’ specification of wages.

Enterprises and organisations are classified by economic activity based on their primary economic activity in Statistics Iceland‘s Business Registry. Cultural industries are a collection of NACE Rev. 2 economic activities, based on Eurostat’s definition of culture, cf. metadata for register-based employment in cultural industries for a list of economic activities included. Cultural occupations in other industries are not included in this publication, as the tax data does not include occupational classification.

Information regarding the general government’s economic measures are based on data from a special data collection by Statistics Iceland. The data derives from the Central Bank of Iceland, the Directorate of Labour, the Judicial Administration and the Iceland Revenue and Customs.

Metadata for Register based employment in cultural industries
Experimental statistics on taxable wages
Statistics on register based employment in cultural industries by year
Statistics on register based employment

Use of these experimental statistics is free. Please quote the source.
For further information please contact erla.r.gudmundsdottir@hagstofa.is, tel. +354 528 11052