Thursday, February 05, 2009

some predict a new economy, and many wish for one

(image courtesy

Two great big quotable, research-heavy reports came out today and set Canada's cultural sector buzzing. The first one into the inbox this morning is the work of creative class guru Richard Florida and Roger Martin of the Martin Prosperity Institute.

Ontario in the Creative Age suggests:

As in all times of economic crisis, there is considerable pressure on governments to protect the past and to undertake bailouts – to preserve what we have during this time of uncertainty. But this protective approach can only forestall the inevitable. There is a better way. That way is to invest in our people, our businesses, our institutions, and our infrastructure. Productive and future-oriented investment will generate prosperity for the long term.

There is no greater resource than the creativity, innovativeness, and productive talents of our people. Our goal must be to harness and use our full creative talents, to grow the businesses and industries of the future, to use our openness, tolerance, and diversity to gain economic advantage, and to invest in the infrastructure of the future in ways that enable more innovation and economic growth.

Also out today from Hill Strategies is A Statistical Profile of Artists in Canada, and it suggests the economy we've just ushered into the wings was not so generous toward "creativity." Here are the ten key facts from that study of census data circa 2006:

1. The average earnings of artists are very low.

2. A typical artist in Canada earns less than half the typical earnings of all Canadian workers.

3. Artists’ earnings decreased, even before the current recession.

4. There are more female than male artists, yet women artists earn much less than men.

5. Aboriginal and visible minority artists have particularly low earnings.

6. Economic returns to higher education are much lower for artists than for other workers.

7. Many artists are self-employed.

8. There are relatively few opportunities for full-time work in the arts.

9. There has been substantial growth in the number of artists since 1971, but the rate of growth is decreasing.

10. Artists, as a group, are becoming more diverse, older and better educated.

So, okay Dr. Florida, bring on that creative age.

Full disclosure: My current employer, the Ontario Arts Council, was one of the funders of the Hill Strategies report.

One interesting side note: In 2006, I was running the Professional Writers Association of Canada, and we published a comprehensive(ish) survey of Canadian freelance writers. That report, still available on the PWAC website, came to 8 out of 10 of the same conclusions as this Hill Strategies report, suggesting (to me) that what is true for writers is true for the entire arts sector.

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