A Statistical Profile of Artists and Cultural Workers in Canada

Based on the 2011 National Household Survey and the Labour Force Survey

This report examines the situation of artists and cultural workers in Canada, with current information based on the 2011 National Household Survey (a voluntary survey of approximately 3.1 million Canadians) and historical information based on annual averages from the Labour Force Survey (a mandatory survey with a monthly sample size of 56,000 Canadians). All of the data relate to people who spent more time at their artistic or cultural occupation than any other occupation during a specific reference week. In the case of the National Household Survey, the reference week is May 1 to 7, 2011.

In Canada, there are 136,600 people who work as artists more than at any other occupation, a figure that is “slightly larger than the labour force in automotive manufacturing (133,000)”. As noted in the national report, “one in every 129 Canadian workers is an artist”.

Among the nine occupation groups counted as artists, the largest group (nationally and in every province) is musicians and singers, with 33,800 people working in this occupation in Canada in May of 2011 (25% of all 136,600 artists). Authors and writers comprise the second-largest group (25,600 workers, or 19%), followed by “producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations (23,000, or 17%), visual artists (15,900, or 12%), [and] artisans and craftspersons (13,100, or 10%)”.

In 2011, 671,100 people worked in cultural occupations, representing 3.82% of the Canadian labour force (based on 50 occupations identified as cultural in Statistics Canada’s Conceptual Framework for Cultural Statistics and its associated Classification Guide). The national report indicated that “the number of cultural workers (671,100) is over two-and-a-half times larger than the labour force in real estate (254,200), about double the labour force on farms (339,400), and slightly lower than the labour force in the wholesale trade industry (733,500)”.

Based on Labour Force Survey annual estimates, the number of artists increased by 56% between 1989 and 2013, while the number of cultural workers grew by 47%. Both of these growth rates are higher than the 38% increase in the overall national labour force.

Regarding incomes, the national report found that “the total individual income of Canada's 136,600 artists averages $32,800, a figure that is 32% less than the overall labour force in Canada ($48,100). Cultural workers have average individual incomes of $42,100 (12% less than the overall labour force).”

The median income of artists is considerably low ($21,600), 43% less than the median income of all Canadian workers ($37,900). In fact, “the median income of artists is 5% lower than Statistics Canada’s low-income cutoff for a single person living in a community of 500,000 people or more ($22,600)”. (Low-income cutoffs “are income thresholds below which families devote a larger share of income to the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than the average family would”. The median is the point where one-half of respondents have lower incomes and the other half have higher incomes.)

Summary: 

This report examines the situation of artists and cultural workers in Canada. In Canada, there are 136,600 people who work as artists more than at any other occupation, a figure that is “slightly larger than the labour force in automotive manufacturing (133,000)”. As noted in the national report, “one in every 129 Canadian workers is an artist”.