Good support for Nordic culture as pandemic hits hard

28.04.21 | News
P8 Jazz Alive i DR Koncerthuset
Torben Christensen/Ritzau Scanpix

An empty DR Concert Hall for P8 Jazz Alive during the pandemic.

In all of the Nordic countries, culture has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The various governments have put in place relatively similar support packages and the measures introduced seem to have worked best in music and the performing arts. While income has fallen by 50% for large groups in the sector, a few have earned more during lockdown. These are some of the results of a new report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers and published by the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis.

It is just over a year since cultural life in the Nordic Region shut down due to COVID-19. Festivals were cancelled, museums closed and theatrical performances streamed to people’s homes. The new report “Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cultural sector in the Nordic countries” analyses the consequences of the pandemic and how well the measures introduced by the Nordic governments have worked.

“The Nordic cultural sector has been hard hit by the pandemic. The analysis provides a situation report and identifies areas of cultural policy that will be important if cultural exchanges between the countries are to continue to play a key role in Nordic co-operation,” says Paula Lehtomäki, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers.  

Support working relatively well

The report shows no obvious signs of systematic differences in how the countries’ cultural sectors have been affected by the pandemic, despite the differences in the national restrictions imposed. However, it does show that the effects on cultural activities were immediate and will have a longer-term impact. 

“The measures and support packages in the Nordic countries seem to have worked relatively well. But one problem in several countries is that subsidies have not reached all of the small players, especially the self-employed, for whom they were intended,” says Joakim Boström Elias, Operations Manager at the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis.

Biggest subsidies in Norway and Denmark

The Nordic countries have all introduced relatively similar measures and crisis-support packages. Concerts, performances, exhibitions and other parts of the sector that rely on audiences have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic. Measures and crisis packages for music and the performing arts seem to have worked best. Norway and Denmark have paid out the largest subsidies.

One challenge that has also been identified in other international reports is that the measures have not been sufficiently well adapted to suit conditions in the cultural sector, both in terms of working conditions and types of funding and income.

Greater insecurity

The report shows that the pandemic has led to lower incomes and greater uncertainty about future employment and earnings for a significant proportion of those working in the cultural sector in the Nordic Region, with the exception of those involved in certain digital activities on whom the pandemic has had the opposite effect,  for example, streaming platforms for films, TV and music as well as online bookstores.

Surveys conducted in Sweden, Finland and Norway, also show that a significant proportion of cultural workers are considering changing professions.

Risk of more “national” production

The pandemic may also have adverse effects on Nordic co-operation on cultural policy as the number of exchange programmes between the countries falls.

“It will probably take time before cultural production based on travel and international collaboration is restored. This may also lead to the production becoming more “national” and possibly to a reduction in cultural-policy exchange programmes in the Nordic Region,” says Joakim Boström Elias, Operations Manager at the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis.

Invitation: Webinar 28 April for further information

Researchers, artists and others involved in the cultural sector all over the Nordic Region will take part in a livestreamed webinar discussing the key conclusions in the report. The audience will be able to ask questions in a chat window. The event will be in the Scandinavian languages.



  • Trine Søndergaard, photographer and visual artist
  • Joachim Thibblin, Artistic Director, the Swedish Theatre, Helsinki
  • Joppe Pihlgren, Operations Manager, Swedish Live
  • Liselott Forsman, CEO, Nordisk Film & TV Fond
  • Sabina Westerholm, Director, Nordic House in Reykjavík
  • Joakim Boström Elias, Operations Manager, the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis
  • Ola Berge, (PhD), Senior Researcher and author of the report, Telemark Research Institute
  • Camara Lundestad Joof, playwright and member of the Arts Council Norway (moderator)


28 April, 13:00–14:30 (CEST)

About the report

The report “Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cultural sector in the Nordic countries” by the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis is the first of two analyses commissioned by the culture ministers to help understand and cope with the challenges faced during the pandemic from a Nordic perspective. The report has been written in the Scandinavian languages but contains a summary in English.

The Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis is a centre of Nordic knowledge set up on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Contact information