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Canada/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.9 Employment policies for the cultural sector

The cultural labour force in Canada remains a leading topic for study and debate in today's rapidly changing cultural environment. Measuring and categorising cultural occupations has nevertheless remained problematic owing to different definitions of cultural work, methods of counting cultural workers, sources and procedures used to generate data. Much of the cultural labour force data is derived from the Canadian Census every five years, the monthly Canadian Labour Force Survey and annual or biannual cultural surveys. The cultural labour force, as defined by Statistics Canada for the purposes of the Census, includes those Canadians 15 and over in any of 45 cultural, heritage and artistic occupations. 

Recent trends using employment indicators for 2001 include a high incidence of self-employment among 130 700 artists comprising nine cultural occupations in Canada (writers, producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations; conductors, composers and arrangers; musicians and singers; dancers; actors; other performers; painters, sculptors and related artists; and artisans and craft- persons); wide variations in income between low-income writers, musicians, visual artists and dancers and higher income cultural managers, for example and a strong representation of part-time and multiple job holders in the cultural sector. In 2003, Statistics Canada estimated that the cultural sector directly employed 615 900 or 3.9% of the total labour force (see provincial distribution of the Canadian cultural labour force in Table 2 below). Part-time employees continued to out-number full-time workers in not-for-profit heritage institutions, with a continued reliance on volunteers as an integral component of their work force. Art museums and galleries indicated that over 85% of their total work forces were volunteers while historic sites indicated volunteers made up 74% of their work force. In the film and television production labour market, 119 500 full-time equivalent (direct and indirect) jobs were generated in Canada in 2004-05, 11% fewer jobs than the previous year and the third straight annual decrease. Just under 7 500 full-time and almost 1 400 part-time employees in the book publishing industry contributed to the cultural labour force in 2004.

Table 2:          Culture employment by province, 1995-2003

More recent research has estimated that nearly 1.1 million jobs can be attributed directly and indirectly to economic activity generated by cultural sector industries in Canada in 2007 (Conference Board of Canada 2008).

Earlier research on the cultural labour force demonstrated:

  • Strong regional variations: culture accounts for 3.3% of the employed labour force in Quebec, Ontario and BC and just 2% in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and PEI;
  • Different age distributions: The % of culture workers under 25 years of age is smaller than the % in the overall labour force but the proportion of culture workers between 25 and 44 is higher than in the entire labour force. Between 1996 and 2001, however, growth was fastest in the young age group;
  • Relatively high levels of education for culture workers: over one-third of culture workers have completed a university education, greater than the 22% of all workers in Canada who have completed a university education;
  • Faster growth rate: from 1971 to 2001, the culture labour force grew by 160%, compared to growth of 81% in the overall labour force (Cultural Human Resources Council 2004);
  • Gender differences (the number of women culture workers quadrupled between 1971 and 2001 while the number of men culture workers doubled).

Recent federal initiatives in cultural human resource development include:

  • The Cultural Human Resources Council: As a national service organisation, the CHRC forges partnerships with the federal and provincial governments to help build a cultural human resource strategy for Canada. The Council is dedicated to supporting cultural workers, producers and artists and to strengthening the Canadian cultural workforce. Among the issues discussed at its most recent Forum are recruitment and training, transitions from education to career development, retention in the labour force, and job creation; and
  • National training institutions: Although the federal government in Canada has devolved much responsibility to the provinces in respect to training, it supports 37 national institutions including the National Theatre School and the National Ballet School, through the National Arts Training Contribution Programme, as well as providing funding to national training schools in the film and video sector.

Chapter published: 24-11-2008

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