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Culture Employment in a North American Context, 1981 to 2001

November 12, 200712 November 2007

Government spending on culture / Facilities / Human resources / Local information

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This report compares cultural employment in Canada and the United States using 21 occupation groups from the Canadian and American censuses. This extremely narrow definition of cultural employment (much narrower than the 48 occupations used in the Statistics Canada report Towards a Geography of Culture: Culture Occupations Across the Canadian Urban-Rural Divide) is used because of difficulties in comparing equivalent occupations over time and between the two countries. Because this definition is much narrower than that prescribed by Statistics Canada’s Canadian Framework for Cultural Statistics, the absolute levels of culture employment in the report are much less interesting than the overall trends and comparisons between Canada and the U.S.

The report finds that, in both Canada and the U.S., “culture employment grew at a much greater rate than the workforce as a whole over the period 1981 to 2001”. During this period, the growth in cultural employment was 81% in Canada, much higher than the 32% growth in the overall labour force during the same period. In the U.S., the growth in cultural employment was 66%, about double the 32% growth in the overall American labour force.

In both countries, significant growth in culture employment occurred in both rural areas and cities between 1981 and 2001. In Canadian rural areas, the growth in the cultural labour force was 55%, compared with overall labour force growth of 16%. In Canadian cities, the growth in the cultural labour force was 90%, compared with overall labour force growth of 43%.

Between 1981 and 2001, growth was much weaker in heritage occupations (20%) than in other cultural occupations (97%) in Canada. In fact, the percentage of the overall Canadian workforce in heritage occupations decreased slightly between 1981 and 2001.

The report also finds that the growth in culture employment between 1981 and 2001 was stronger in Canada than in the U.S., resulting in Canada having a larger share of its overall workforce in cultural occupations than the U.S. in 2001. This situation is a reversal of the 1981 statistics, when the U.S. had a larger share of its overall workforce in cultural occupations.

The report shows that, on a decade-by-decade basis, the cultural labour force grew significantly in both countries between 1981 and 1991. However, growth in the U.S. slowed between 1991 and 2001, while the strong growth in Canadian culture employment continued during this decade.

Although the report provides separate rankings of North American cities by their heritage workforce and their workforce in other cultural occupations, the report does not provide an overall ranking of cities’ cultural workforces (i.e., the combination of heritage and other cultural occupations).

With regard to heritage employment as a percentage of total employment, six Canadian cities rank in the top 20 in North America: Ottawa-Hull (fourth), Saskatoon (fifth), Halifax (sixth), St. John’s (seventh), Regina (ninth) and Kingston (18th). There were some interesting changes in the rankings of Canadian cities between 1981 and 2001: Ottawa-Hull dropped from first spot in 1981 to fourth in 2001; Saskatoon was in fifth spot in both years; Halifax fell from third to sixth; St. John’s moved from ninth to seventh; Regina jumped from 22nd to ninth; and Kingston dropped from fourth to 18th.

With regard to other cultural occupations as a percentage of the total workforce, four Canadian cities rank in the top 20: Vancouver (eighth), Toronto (tenth), Victoria (11th) and Montreal (18th). There was a cultural coming-of-age in these Canadian cities between 1981 and 2001: Vancouver increased its ranking by 43 spots over 1981; Toronto increased by 10 spots; Victoria by 51; and Montreal by 22.

These findings clearly show that employment in cultural and heritage occupations can change significantly over time in Canadian cities.

For 10 large cities with a large cultural labour force, the report also provides a breakdown of cultural employment into literary arts, performing arts (including film), and visual arts and design. Four Canadian cities are included: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. Among the 10 cities, Vancouver ranks second in performing arts (and film) employment as a percentage of the overall labour force, behind Los Angeles. Toronto ranks third on this list, Montreal fourth, and Ottawa eighth. In terms of the cities’ visual arts and design labour force, Toronto ranks fifth, Vancouver sixth, Montreal seventh and Ottawa tenth. Canadian cities tend to rank the lowest in terms of the literary arts labour force, with Ottawa ranking fifth, Toronto eighth, Montreal ninth and Vancouver tenth.

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