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A Statistical Profile of Artists in Canada in 2016

(with Summary Information about Cultural Workers)

March 27, 2019

Partners: The Canada Council for the Arts, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the Ontario Arts Council


This report focusses on the working lives of artists in Canada, and it is the 48th report in the Statistical Insights on the Arts (SIA) series from Hill Strategies Research. The full report includes details about:

  • The overall number of artists,
  • Artists by occupation,
  • Demographic information such as gender, education, age, Indigenous people, members of racialized groups, and more,
  • Self-employment rates,
  • Total incomes, employment incomes, and household incomes,
  • The industries where artists work, with a focus on the three most common sectors for artists: 1) arts, entertainment, and recreation; 2) educational services; and 3) information and cultural industries.

The report also provides a brief summary of the situation of cultural workers in Canada (a broader grouping which includes but extends well beyond artists).

The report is based on a custom data request from the 2016 long-form census, which classifies people in the occupation in which they worked the most hours during the census reference week (May 1 to 7, 2016). Subsequent reports will examine artists in Canadian provinces and municipalities, as well as demographic differences in the situations of artists.

Purpose of study

A shared commitment to making arts research available to inform the work of Canada's arts community and inform the general public about Canada's arts sector.


This report contains statistics on the working lives of artists and cultural workers analyzed from the 2016 long-form census. Readers should keep in mind that when the census was conducted in 2016, Canadians 15 and older were classified in the occupation in which they worked the most hours during the census reference week (May 1 to 7, 2016). If they did not work during that week, they were classified based on the job at which they worked the longest since January 1, 2015. If they did not work at all during that period, they were excluded from the experienced labour force (and the statistics in this report). The census collected income information for 2015, the most recent full calendar year.

It is also important to note that, due to major changes in methods between the 2011 National Household Survey and the 2016 census, data in this report are not comparable to previous reports.

Overview/Key Findings

There are 183,200 artists (who spent more time at their art than at any other occupation in May of 2016), representing almost 1% of the overall Canadian labour force (0.92%). In other words, 1 in every 109 Canadian workers is an artist. The number of artists (182,300) is greater than the labour force in automotive manufacturing (154,100) and the utilities sector (144,900).

Nine detailed occupation codes are included in the count of artists. From largest to smallest, they are:

  • Musicians and singers: 40,300 (22% of all artists)
  • Authors and writers: 31,100 (17%)
  • Producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations: 29,100 (16%)
  • Visual artists: 24,800 (14%)
  • Artisans and craftspeople: 17,300 (9%)
  • Actors and comedians: 16,000 (9%)
  • Dancers: 11,700 (6%)
  • Other performers: 8,400 (5%; this category includes circus performers, magicians, puppeteers, models, and other performers not elsewhere classified)
  • Conductors, composers, and arrangers: 4,600 (2%)

The report contains other key findings related to the working lives of artists:

  • Women comprise 53% of artists, higher than the proportion of all workers (48%).
  • A much larger percentage of artists than all workers have a bachelor’s degree or higher (44% vs. 27%).
  • 52% of artists are self-employed, compared with only 12% of all Canadian workers.
  • The age distribution of artists is fairly similar to all workers: nearly one-half of artists (47%) are 45 years of age or older, similar to the 45% of all workers. However, more artists than all workers are 65 years of age or older (12% vs. 6%).
  • Racialized Canadians are under-represented among artists (15%) compared with all workers (21%).
  • Indigenous and immigrant workers are slightly under-represented among artists: Indigenous People (3.3% of artists and 4.0% of all workers) and immigrants (21% of artists and 23% of all workers).

The median individual income of Canada’s artists is $23,100, or 45% less than all Canadian workers ($41,900). The main component of total income, for most workers, is employment income (including wages, salaries, and self-employment earnings). A typical artist has employment income of just $15,000, a figure that is 59% lower than the median of all workers ($36,700).

For the first time in 2016, household income statistics were requested from the census. The findings from this analysis are somewhat less dire than the individual income statistics. A typical artist has a household income of $56,400, 34% lower than all workers ($84,900).

The full report highlights the vast differences in median incomes of artists in different occupations and industry sectors.

Many types of artists in Canada

Note: Artists who spent more time on their art than at any other occupation in May 2016.

Source: 2016 census custom data request.

Further insights: A Statistical Profile of Artists in Canada in 2016, funded by the Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and Department of Canadian Heritage.

Statistical Insights on the Arts

Hill Strategies Research

Design by EB Media

Type of Artist Number Percentage
Conductors, composers, and arrangers 4,600 2%
Other performers 8,400 5%
Dancers 11,700 6%
Actors and comedians 16,000 9%
Artisans and craftspeople 17,300 9%
Visual artists 24,800 14%
Producers, directors, choreographers 29,100 16%
Authors and writers 31,100 17%
Musicians and singers 40,300 22%
Total 183,200 100%