Culture-sector employment has peaked: Statistics Canada

New report says rapid expansion in the culture workforce is over because of weak demand and limited public-sector resources

Job growth in the culture sector outpaced the overall labour market from 1991 to 2002, according to a new report from Statistics Canada, but the boom may have ended.

The 1980s saw a rapid expansion of the culture workforce, which includes things like creative and artistic production and heritage collection and preservation, to meet increased demand for culture goods and services.

There was a brief pause in the industry in the early 1990s because of the recession when jobs, earnings and revenues all fell off. But the market rebounded, and culture workers rode the high employment wave through the remainder of the decade.

While the total labour force increased about 20 per cent from 1991 to 2002, the growth in employment in the culture sector was significantly higher at 31 per cent. But most of the gains in the culture sector occurred before 1999. Between 2000 and 2002, the sector’s workforce hardly increased.

The culture workforce peaked at nearly 578,000 in 2001 and then declined the following year. In 2002, slightly more than 577,000 people worked in the sector, representing 3.7 per cent of Canada’s total labour force. Almost 80 per cent of those jobs were full-time.

Self-employment is another striking feature of the culture sector, according to Statistics Canada. The number of self-employed workers in the culture sector increased 57 per cent from 1991 to 2002 to reach almost 148,000. One in four workers in the sector were self-employed in 2002, notably higher than the 15 per cent for the entire workforce.

Statistics Canada’s Focus on Culture said much of the growth in the industry in the last decade came from increases in government grants and contributions because there was only modest growth in Canadians’ spending on culture activities in the 1990s.

But given the weak domestic market for culture products in the 1990s, combined with the public sector’s limited ability to increase funding, future job growth in culture employment may depend on opportunities offered by the international marketplace and new technologies.

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