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Creative economy: the Pakistan’s perspective

An innocent enough question: What do you want to be when you grow up? You can pretty much count on visiting relatives to ask your kids what they want to be when they grow up. The question can be intimidating for little ones, who might say they want to be a doctor or pilot or a teacher, without truly understanding what that job involves. When people asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, your childhood answer was always something in the creative vein: a designer, a writer or maybe even a musician. Chasing creative dreams is cute for a kid, but now that you need to earn a livelihood, everyone seems to expect you to go into what they see as more of a practical career. Try as you might, you just can’t get excited about a career in accounting, healthcare or any other buttoned-up industry. You’ve heard talk about the creative economy, a phrase that makes your ears enliven. Is it possible that you can pursue a creative career without fulfilling the stereotype of a “starving artist”?

Despite what some might say, creative careers can provide a stable, secure income. In fact, these careers are part of a driving economic force that’s making waves across the job market. Don’t get caught believing negative myths about creative work. Instead, keep reading to learn some surprising truths about the creative economy.

What is creative economy?

The term ‘Creative Economy’ was coined by John Howkins in 200. He applied the term to the arts, cultural services, games, and research and development. The term increasingly refers to all economic activity that depends on a person’s individual creativity for its economic value whether the result has a cultural element or not. It occurs wherever individual creativity is the main source of value and the main cause of a transaction. Measuring creative economy has different ways. Normally standard indicators like producer outputs, consumer expenditure, employment and trade are taken into consideration. Creative economies are more commonly found in market-based economies where they can benefit from intellectual and artistic freedom.

Creative economy – just more than money

Regardless of how we define the creative economy, experts seem to agree on one thing: It’s growing at a record-setting pace. Why the drastic increase in creative work? The creative economy is uniquely positioned to carry forward with steady growth, even if other economic industries are lagging. The World Economic Forum notes that the creative industry seems to operate independently from other markets, continuing to grow at a worldwide rate of 14 percent during the 2008 global economic downturn. The creative economy serves a much bigger purpose than bringing a blockbuster movies or the latest hit song on the FM Radio. However, it’s not just about the money, the creative economy is also a vital part of keeping cultural significance alive. This emphasis on cultural significance has the potential to bring humanity together in a way that our increasingly divisive world desperately needs. Creative works have a universal appeal and the World Economic Forum asserts that creative services could be an engine for building trust, understanding and acceptance across cultures.

With the ability to bridge the gap between various societal perspectives and generate financial growth, it’s no wonder the creative economy is gaining some well-deserved attention.

Where do we stand?

So where does the creative industry stand in Pakistan’s economy? Creativity could be worth a lot to Pakistan economy. This small to medium sized activity is growing and has the potential to mushroom as big as a $100 billion sub-sector of the economy in years to come, if cultivated today. For that we need to put our heads together with resolve, focus and team approach. We ought to create a set of niche and market them i.e. knowledge-based, which addresses futuristic issues of environment, water, agriculture, technology, etc.

Pakistan’s contemporary creative economy is founded on a rich and diverse cultural, creative and artistic heritage. Visual arts and crafts, books and press, performance, audio-visual and interactive media, and design and creative services are all well represented nationally, with strong representation in some sectors provincially. Common to many developing countries, the urban centers and their emergent middle-class populations are major arenas of creative endeavor with international connections and markets, providing new opportunities, particularly for Pakistan’s youthful population.

Out of all employees in Pakistan, 15% earn their livelihoods in the country’s cultural and creative economies. Interestingly, women are increasingly represented in this workforce. There are indications that their employment is growing in the audio-visual and interactive media and design and creative services sectors. However, the jobs in these industries are not reliable. People find work in the visual arts, performing arts, literature and music, but this work is not regular and forces people to typically work in other sectors as well.


Pakistan enjoys an emergent Creative Industries sector founded on a combination of a rich and diverse cultural heritage, and an engagement with contemporary cultural and creative expressions. The challenges, political, economic, cultural and ideological presented by Pakistan’s unique geo-political significance should not be under-estimated. Whilst technology does and will in the future make a major contribution to Pakistan’s creative life, its tangible and intangible cultural resources will continue to play a major role in Pakistan’s economic and social future. The creative and cultural industries are especially suited to the challenges of promoting an international profile, and, embedding sustainable economic activity into localities and provinces. Social enterprise is playing an important role connecting Pakistani citizens to their cultural heritage, contemporary creative expression and employment and business opportunities. Supported by government initiative, social enterprises promoting the work of craft-makers are significant, but private initiative in the social enterprises is also increasing in presence and profile in areas such as literature, music and performance.

Opportunities for women

Pakistan’s diverse literary and linguistic heritage is, both, contemporary and dynamic. Women are playing leading roles across the urban Cultural and Creative Industries. The Cultural and Creative Industries are offering women opportunity for both economic advancement and a wider public and civic role. Many areas of crafts are dominated by women workers.

As both public and private initiatives take effect to raise skills, develop new markets and promote enterprise, the economic position of women workers has the potential to see improvement. For example, it is highly visible in areas such as film, television, performance and literature. Though it is less visible in areas such as design and new media. Women, are playing important leadership roles in the social enterprise areas of the Cultural and Creative Industries.

The Cultural and Creative Industries are growing in the major urban centers. Influenced by both traditional artistic endeavors in literature, music, performance and the development of Pakistan’s Cultural and Creative Industries. However there are gaps, particularly in enterprise skills, arts and cultural management. There is growing evidence of increasing creative literacy skills as the overall level of literacy in society more generally improves. Thus there is an urgent need to examine the contemporary and future relevance of current higher education curriculum.

Potential growth

Pakistan’s international image continues to be a potential challenge for international trade and collaboration. The routine non-acknowledgement of Pakistani creative product in international markets inhibits both the recognition of Pakistani brands and value streams, which in turn undermines goodwill and sustainability. This could be overcome by strong international public relations campaign around the quality and reliability of Pakistani originated products, particularly in the design and digital areas. This would also help to raise the issue of prevalent counterfeiting of creative products in Pakistan.

The evidence suggests that there is the potential for growth, combined with an important role in both rural and urban economic sustainability. This need to be explored further with the relevant national and provincial authorities, Cultural and Creative Industries stakeholders, and private sector bodies and educational and research institutions.

The author, Fatima Irshad Hashmi, is a freelance writer. She is MPhil Scholar at IoBM and could be reached atfatima.i.hashmi@gmail.com

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