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Making It Work

Pathways Toward Sustainable Cultural Careers

December 4, 20194 December 2019

Human resources / Artists / Cultural workers




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This report profiles the culture sector labour market in Ontario and “identifies the challenges it is facing, from evolving skills needs to the precariousness of the gig economy”, based on findings from a custom survey with 1,087 respondents, roundtable discussions with 127 participants, and 2016 census data.

The research team’s custom approach to defining the cultural sector includes four subsectors:

  • Arts (including visual arts and crafts, dance, music, theatre, literary arts)
  • Cultural industries (including digital media, design and advertising, film and television, book and magazine publishing, music recording and publishing)
  • Museums and heritage (including museums and archives)
  • Libraries

The authors note that “the subsectors and specializations used in this report do not correspond exactly to domains and subdomains” in Statistics Canada’s Canadian Framework for Cultural Statistics (but the Framework did inform the research methods).

Based on this definition, the researchers identify 274,220 full-time and part-time cultural workers in Ontario. Some key demographic findings about the cultural workforce include:

  • Cultural workers are slightly younger and more concentrated in urban centres than the overall Ontario workforce.
  • Women cultural workers are slightly underrepresented (44% of the cultural sector workforce vs. 48% of the overall labour force). “A sector exception is in libraries where some 84% of the workforce are women.”
  • “Four in five (81%) culture sector workers hold at least some kind of postsecondary credential compared to about two in three (65%) workers in Ontario overall.”
  • “Participation of persons of colour/members of visible minorities, as well as people who identify as Indigenous” is slightly lower in the cultural sector than in the overall provincial labour force.

In the survey, the top three critical issues facing culture sector workers are: “1) salary/low income; 2) lack of work/life balance; and 3) lack of employment stability”.

The roundtable discussions addressed the situation of individual artists and cultural workers, workplaces and organizations, and diversity and inclusion in the sector. The report notes that “day-to-day, year-to-year survival and sustainability was the major and most fundamental preoccupation for many artists and arts organizations”. Many participants in the discussions indicated that they want guidance in seeking out partnerships with and providing support to Indigenous artists and culture workers as well as those in equity-seeking groups.

Recommendations include exploring new human resource tools, resources, and models relevant to the needs of the culture sector as well as greater support for diversity and inclusion in the sector, particularly further skills training in this area.

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