The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) has released the second set of data for Indicator 11.4.1 related to culture for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Agenda 2030. The updated country-level data is now available in the culture section of the UIS Bulk Data Download Service and contains information on around 50 countries. Data published on UIS Data Portal, however, are still from the June 2021 Data Release but this will be updated with the most recent data for SDG 11.4.1 in the coming weeks.

A new analysis report - Shaping investments to safeguard cultural and natural heritage across the world - has also been published to support the release.

Preserving cultural heritage crucial for thriving societies

Protecting cultural heritage, which includes not only the preservation and restoration of historic monuments, but also modern buildings, natural parks and reserves, marine ecosystems, zoos, botanical gardens and even activities at museums, benefits society through education as well as employment and tourism. It is crucial, therefore, to track investment in cultural heritage over time looking at both public and private expenditure. This latest report, the second annual study by the UIS, highlights the wide gaps in investment, both globally and regionally, and how private expenditure on preservation is lagging behind, often greatly, public expenditure. 

Wide-ranging investments

45 countries (22% response rate) participated in the survey in 2021, of which 41 countries provided robust enough data for analysis. This was an increase from only 31 countries in the 2020 survey. 

The data reveals that the medium per capita national public and private combined expenditure on cultural heritage in 2020-2021 was 89.1 $PPP but that the range of investment was large with, for example, values across European countries ranging from 11.1 $PPP per capita in Greece up to 219 $PPP for Denmark. 

The impact of COVID-19 on public investment

Globally, public expenditure per capita ranges from 0.02 $PPP to 208.5 P$PP with investment from developing countries being significantly lower than that of developed nations. 

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the culture sector and for heritage preservation more specifically. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, 95% of the world’s museums and 90% of world heritage sites were closed resulting in a 60% drop in visitors to the world heritage sites, and a 52% drop in income from admission fees. The pandemic also negatively affected 78% of communities living in and around world heritage sites too (UNESCO, 2021). 

Data, provided by 25 countries, reveals contrasting patterns on public investment in heritage as a result of the impact of COVID-19. Between 2018 and 2019, for the majority of countries, public investments in heritage preservation remained stable or increased slightly, but in 2020 large discrepancies formed. Some countries, such as Czechia, Japan, and Nicaragua, invested in cultural preservation to protect the sector whilst others, such as Turkey, Colombia, and the Republic of Korea, decreased their investment.

Reinforcing Member States capacities

In order to future increase participation in the survey, for SDG Indicator 11.4.1, the UIS will continue to provide regional webinar training on data collection. Alongside this, the UIS is in the process of setting up an online platform for Member States and stakeholders to be able to share experiences and report data more easily. In addition, the UIS is also planning to produce a compilation guide for SDG 11.4.1 reporting. 


Indicator 11.4.1 is defined as “total per capita expenditure on the preservation, protection and conservation of all cultural and natural heritage, by source of funding (public, private), type of heritage (cultural, natural) and level of government (national, regional and local/municipal).” 


*In Bulk Data Download Service (BDDS), former UIS culture data sets (Feature Film statistics, Cultural employment and culture trade) were moved to the Archive section as they are not currently carried out.