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A Statistical Profile of Artists in Canada

Based on the 2006 Census

March 30, 200930 March 2009

Situation of artists

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This report from Hill Strategies Research shows that there are 140,000 artists in Canada who spent more time at their art than at any other occupation in May 2006. This report defines “artists” to include nine arts occupations, encompassing actors, authors, choreographers, craftspeople, composers, conductors, dancers, directors, musicians, producers, singers and visual artists.

The report indicates that the number of artists is slightly larger than the number of Canadians directly employed in the automotive industry (135,000). The report also notes that the broader cultural sector has about 609,000 workers and comprises 3.3% of the overall labour force in Canada.

The report highlights the relatively low earnings of artists. The average earnings of artists are $22,700, compared with an average of $36,300 for all Canadian workers. The average earnings of artists are only 9% higher than Statistics Canada’s low-income cutoff for a single person living in a community of 500,000 people or more ($20,800). The gap between artists’ average earnings and overall labour force earnings is 37%.

A typical artist in Canada earns less than half the typical earnings of all Canadian workers. For artists, median earnings are only $12,900, compared with median earnings of $26,900 for all Canadian workers. In fact, 62% of artists earn less than $20,000, compared with 41% of the overall labour force.

Artists’ earnings decreased, even before the current recession. Between 1990 and 2005, the average earnings of artists decreased by 11% (after adjusting for inflation).

There are more female than male artists, yet women artists earn much less than men. The 74,000 female artists represent 53% of artists. In the overall labour force, 48% of workers are women. On average, female artists earn $19,200, 28% less than the average earnings of male artists ($26,700).

Aboriginal and visible minority artists have particularly low earnings. Aboriginal artists have particularly low average earnings ($15,900), a 39% gap when compared with all Aboriginal workers in the Canadian labour force. With average earnings of $18,800, visible minority artists earn 38% less than the average earnings of all visible minority workers in Canada.

The report also indicates that:

  • The percentage of artists with a bachelor’s degree of higher (39%) is nearly double the rate in the overall labour force (21%).
  • Economic returns to higher education are much lower for artists than for other workers. Artists with university credentials at or above the bachelor’s level earn $26,800, which is 53% less than the average earnings of workers with the same education in the overall labour force ($57,500).
  • At 42%, the percentage of artists who are self-employed is six times the self-employment rate in the overall labour force (7%).
  • There are relatively few opportunities for full-time work in the arts. Nearly twice as many artists as other workers (42% vs. 22%) indicated that they worked part-time in 2005.
  • There has been substantial growth in the number of artists since 1971, but the rate of growth is decreasing.
  • Artists, as a group, are becoming more diverse, older and better educated.

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