How creativity impacts the economy of countries around the world


Without creativity, our ancestors may have never looked at a piece of slate and thought it would make a good tool. Or, entered a cave and decided to paint the walls. Not only is creativity central to what it means to be human, but it’s also at the heart of innovation and problem-solving.

Whether it’s in the classroom or in a boardroom meeting, creativity is the force that inspires, and educates. It helps businesses grow, starts social movements, and has the capacity to shape and change our lives in a million ways every day.

With creativity being such an integral part of innovation and inspiration, we deep dive into what creativity looks like in different parts of the world and the impacts it can have in broader society.

Creative countries according to the Global Creativity Index

When it comes to measuring creativity, according to the latest report from the Global Creativity Index (GCI), creativity can be the secret to the future happiness of entire countries. The GCI index shows that in countries where the level of support for arts and culture is high, creativity has been linked to increased economic development and higher levels of equality.

We gathered data on the government funding of arts over the past 10 years, and looked at the economic and social impacts of arts and culture funding in America, the UK, Australia and New Zealand—some of the most creative countries in the world according to the GCI.

The United Kingdom

Photo by Cathy Yeulet

Since the UK increased its arts funding by 11% from 2009-2019, it has generated revenue of $130.6 billion—which equals a return on investment of 161%.

This funding has led to initiatives like the Creative Careers programme that’s backed by the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. This provides students with the opportunity to go into different creative industries, like TV, film, theatre, and music, to experience a world of work that offers a huge variety of creative opportunities.


Photo by anotherlover

In Australia between 2009-2019 financing of the arts grew by 18%, leading to revenue of $58.7 billion and an impressive 667% return on investment, resulting in lots of funding for infrastructure and education, among other things. And it must be working because a recent survey by Connective Australians for the Australia Council revealed that 98% of Australians engage with the arts. Of these, 79% of people read for pleasure and 81% engaged with culture online, a number that rose to 97% when it came to people aged between 15 and 24.

New Zealand

Photo by tupungato

New Zealand boosted its creative funding by a huge 33% in the same time period, resulting in $130.6 revenue, and a 135% return on investment.

Creativity and culture are also widely supported in New Zealand, and in September 2019 the country celebrated Arts month, an initiative set up by the Arts Foundation that works to promote the arts and bring it up the national agenda. The hashtag #ArtsMonthNZ was also used to ask New Zealanders what art means to them. The Arts Foundation is also responsible for Boosted, the New Zealand crowd-funding platform that has seen an 85% success rate for its artists’ campaigns and raised over $5 million for creative projects since its launch.

The US

Photo by Darryl Brooks

While the US hasn’t changed its governmental arts funding in a decade—remaining static at $155,000,000, the same as in 2009—thanks to state funding, and various other independent charities and organizations, America sees a great return on its support of creativity, making a healthy 5,187% profit on its investment.

Meanwhile, the United States’ arts funding is usually led at the state level, and by non-profit organizations. Americans for the Arts is just one of these organizations and works to cultivate, promote, sustain and support the arts across the country.

Why it’s important to invest in creative education

Another element our four case study countries have in common is supporting creative education and developing a talented workforce that will provide the big ideas of the future. The GCI shows that countries, where funding is made specifically at the grassroots level, are noticing the positive effects the most.

For example, the number of completed visual and performing arts degrees in the United States has risen by 7% since 2006, and there has been a 17% rise in the number of completed creative arts and design degrees in the UK over the past decade. Even better, in Australia, the number of completed arts degrees has grown by 21% in ten years.

The increased numbers of people graduating demonstrates a healthy demand for creative education in these regions, as well as an increase in the types of workers who are open to innovation, new ideas and change.

Data can be visualized in many different ways. Try it out for yourself with ourgraph maker.(opens in a new tab or window)

A glimpse at creativity in other parts of the world

While the GCI focuses on countries with prominent arts funding, arts and culture are increasingly supported around the world. More and more countries are realizing that investment into arts and culture is an important ingredient to the success of a nation’s economy and society.


Brazil is just one example of this. Despite being a country without the same level of arts funding as others, it’s emerging as a vibrant and exciting place to be for creatives.

According to the British Council’s recent report on the Brazilian Creative Economy, there are one million creative jobs in Brazil and 200,000 creative businesses that account for 2.64% of its GDP—an almost 70% increase in the last decade.

This is growing at an annual rate of 4.6% per year – more than double the growth of Brazilian economy overall. And fashion is the leading creative industry, followed by music, film and online media, which are all growing in Brazil.


Photo by Ivo_Eterovic

Africa as a whole also has massive potential for growth using the power of creativity. Across its 54 different countries it has one of the youngest populations in the world, and the growth of digital and mobile technology and systems means there’s many opportunities for progress powered by creative minds.

One example of this can be seen in Nigeria’s booming film industry, which has seen Nollywood become the second largest film industry in the world, producing around 1,500 films every year. Over a million people are employed in the industry, making it the country’s largest employer after agriculture, while also making close to $600 million annually, highlighting the wealth of creativity and demand for consuming it across the continent.

Afripedia(opens in a new tab or window) is a platform that’s hoping to harness Africa’s creative industries. What started out as a documentary series showcasing emerging creatives from major cities across the continent, is now a website where African creatives worldwide can connect with each other and with clients to collaborate, create opportunities and inspire the next generation.

“While producing the Afripedia series, we connected with talents across the African continent and It became evident that there was a significant group of talents across the continent that had remained underrepresented in the global creative industry,” explains Teddy Goitom, who co-founded the project alongside Senay Berha.

“This is where the light bulb came on—an idea that would disrupt the whole creative industry. The world’s first curated database with talents of African descent.

From there, Afripedia has expanded to become an online movement where creatives of African descent can connect with one another, share their work and seek out employment with major global brands and companies.

“Our aim is for Afripedia to serve as the premier search engine to find the best creative talents of African descent, a platform for creative collaborations across Africa and her diaspora, and a global employment pool for future top talents,” says Goitom.

Creatives who have helped change the world

Creativity drives success in every country that supports it. Whether it comes from government sources or independent organisations, investing in arts and culture has a hugely beneficial impact on countries as a whole. And with this comes the growth, innovation and fresh ideas that will shape the global society of the future.

The Nobel Prize winners of the past used their creativity to tackle existing problems or identify new ground to break. With continued levels of investment in arts and culture, we may soon be seeing many more of them.

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