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Labour Market Information Study of the Cultural Labour Force 2019

December 4, 20194 December 2019

Human resources / Artists / Cultural workers

Cultural Human Resources Council


Conference Board of Canada

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Based on 2016 census data, a national online survey with 1,867 respondents, 11 focus groups, plus individual interviews, this report profiles the cultural sector labour force in Canada, detailing its size, economic impact, potential for growth, regional distribution, demographics, and workplace challenges.

The research team created a custom definition of the scope of the cultural sector: “Cultural activity involves the creation, research, development, production, manufacturing, distribution, presentation, performance, and/or preservation of creative goods and services, including the discovery and preservation of heritage —all with a professional intent”.

The report indicates that there are 798,300 cultural workers in Canada, representing 4% of all the overall labour force. This includes 426,650 workers in creative and artistic production, 323,905 in technical and operational occupations, 19,510 in heritage collection and preservation, and 28,240 in cultural management.

The nearly 800,000 cultural workers also include secondary occupations, based on additional data from the national survey. On average, cultural workers hold two occupations. Given that Statistics Canada’s census only captures primary occupations, the report indicates that some people’s involvement in culture might not be “fully captured by the census”.

As noted in the report, “between 2010 and 2015, employment in cultural occupations increased 3.2 per cent—slightly slower than the 4.3 per cent growth in employment across the entire Canadian economy”. By 2026, the report estimates “further growth in employment of just under 8 per cent”, lower than employment growth in the overall economy (9.7%).

Demographically, 50.5% of cultural workers are female, and 49.5% are male. Cultural workers have a higher level of educational attainment than the overall labour force (43% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher vs. 25% in the overall labour force). Cultural workers are slightly younger than the overall labour force: 59% of cultural workers and 55% of all workers are under 45 years of age. Regionally, 65% of the cultural labour force is located in Ontario and Quebec, 30% in the Prairies and British Columbia, and 5% in Atlantic Canada and the territories.

The report also summarizes economic impact data from Statistics Canada’s Culture Satellite Account. Measured using an industry perspective, the culture sector generated $58.8 billion in direct gross domestic product in 2017.

A scarcity of resources is identified as a key theme from the focus groups and interviews, including issues such as low wages, precarity of work, difficulty securing funding or generating stable revenue, and high reliance on volunteer labour. Another key theme is the persistence of “issues like discrimination, ageism, ableism, racism, sexism, and tokenism”.

The report concludes with recommendations for strengthening the cultural sector through mentorship for emerging leaders, additional training in business, management, and technological skills, as well as human resource training related to harassment and inclusion. The research team recommends further research to “address the significant data gaps that inhibit an accurate assessment of the sector… This includes developing a pilot project to assess new and better practices in data collection specifically aimed at capturing the ‘gig economy’ reality”.

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