1. Introduction

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

It has long been acknowledged that an educated, highly skilled labour force is essential for economic growth and development. In the economic literature, the stock of skills, knowledge and abilities which are present in the labour force is generally referred to as "human capital", and the role of human capital in the economy has been extensively analyzed. For example, human capital levels, measured by such indicators as educational attainment, are often found to be significant for explaining economic performance across countries.1 However, the way that we define human capital is open to debate.

Past analytical literature tends to stress the importance of technical skills and forms of knowledge related to science and engineering for economic innovation and growth. Indeed, the importance of scientific and technical skills for producing a wide range of goods and services is often treated as axiomatic.Yet, it is arguable that producing many consumer and industrial products relies on a broad spectrum of skills, knowledge and abilities. Indeed, "softer" skills, particularly those more closely associated with the creative or fine arts, may also play a vital role. For example, the stylistic design of a particular product, such as a household appliance, can decisively affect its appeal to consumers. This suggests that design can add significant value to a consumer good independent of technology. Moreover, given the vast number of consumer products available in the current economic context, it is important for manufacturers to differentiate their products from competitors in order to compete effectively for sales. An excellent example is the automobile industry. Product differentiation in the automobile industry encompasses much more than incorporating technical differences between different kinds of automobiles; clearly, as with household appliances, the stylistic design of a particular vehicle make is essential for appealing to individual consumer tastes. Dedicated marketing strategies are also essential for emphasizing the unique features of a particular automobile and for creating and expanding markets for them. In a similar way, manufacturers of even cutting-edge high-technology consumer products, such as computers, MP3 players and cellular telephones, still require effective marketing campaigns to generate sales, and the products themselves generally embody a significant degree of stylistic design. Hence, even highly technical industries require softer skills as part of the innovation process, alongside engineering and scientific expertise. Indeed, moving up the value-added chain may imply incorporating more art and design into products.

Of course, this perspective is not new. Jane Jacobs' The Economy of Cities (1969), a work of seminal importance, emphasized that a wide variety of skills and knowledge are necessary for innovation. More recently, Richard Florida has also recognized the economic importance of a broad set of skills and knowledge. In particular, Florida emphasizes the role that creativity plays in the economy and argues that a "creative class" has come into existence over the past few decades. Florida's creative class includes a wide range of professions and occupations, all of which can be distinguished by their requirement for creative thinking. In his creative class, he certainly includes scientists, engineers and related technical workers. However, Florida also notes the contributions made by artists, writers and those in similar occupations.2 Thus, there is support for the notion that creativity more closely associated with artistic occupations is important.

Hence, we are interested in whether forms of creativity outside of purely technical and scientific fields are being used to produce goods and services. In particular, we focus on the role that culture workers play in the economy. Culture occupations are explicitly creative and possess substantial skills and knowledge. Moreover, they embody forms of creativity that are profoundly different from the creativity found in technical and scientific occupations. Many culture workers are obviously employed in the production of cultural goods and services, such as artistic works, concerts and literature. Thus, this paper extends knowledge by asking to what extent employers in non-culture industries, such as manufacturing or business services, rely on culture workers and their skills as inputs into productive processes.

A related question concerns whether the employment of culture workers outside culture industries increased during the 1990s. This decade was a time of immense change in the Canadian economy given the rise of information and communication technologies (such as the internet), the coming into force of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the economic impact of global competition. Moreover, as a result of these changes, knowledge and creativity have steadily assumed more important roles, to the extent that the current economy is often referred to as the "new economy" in the media and analytical literature.3 Hence, we hypothesize that the evolution of the economy during the 1990s led to greater demand for culture workers.

Finally, this paper studies whether the way in which culture workers in non-culture industries are employed varies across the urban-rural spectrum. Florida (2005) and other recent research tend to emphasize the role cities play in national economic life.4 In part, this role derives from the large labour markets that cities, by their very nature, are host to. These large labour markets allow firms easier access to skilled workers, especially those with specific skills and knowledge. Thus, we expect that firms that employ culture workers more intensively would have an incentive to locate in cities, and we test this hypothesis by analyzing patterns of culture employment across the urban-rural spectrum.