Krisengefüge der Künste



Who are we: bohemians or civil servants? Employment conditions, job satisfaction, and cultural aspiration of the workforce of German city theaters – Results of an empirical survey

Working Paper Nr. 10/2020


Lara Althoff, M.A./Prof. Dr. Annette Zimmer, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster


The majority of theaters in Germany is thoroughly integrated into local government and administration. Do the institutional embeddedness and financial dependency impact on the self-perception and professionalism of the theater´s personnel? The paper addresses this question by examining employment and working conditions of the staff, active in the artistic and non-artistic field at six city theaters, three in East-Germany and three in a western region of the country. The results of the survey highlight that working at the theater is something special and primarily determined by the passion for artistic productions. However, the theater as a workplace definitely constitutes a facet of the creative industry in such a way that employment conditions are precarious and future career prospects limited. Also, performing artists are not a homogeneous group; significant differences were detected between actors, dancers and members of the orchestra. The members of these artistic divisions are very distinct with respect to hard facts such as income and working hours as well as intrinsic motivations and their appreciation of the theater as a liberal and international workplace. While dancers come close to what might be described as a precarious bohemians, actors might be characterized as long-hour creative workers, and members of the orchestra might to some extent be classified as fairly unionized civil servants.