The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) has released today a summary report from its latest income survey of Canadian writers. Devaluing Creators, Endangering Creativity contains the very bad news that writers in Canada are making 27% less from their writing than they were making in 1998 (when last surveyed to this extent). What’s more, a full 45% of those surveyed indicated they are working harder in order to earn that lower amount.
The Writers’ Union believes these results represent a cultural emergency for Canada. For 81% of respondents, income from writing would not allow them to live above the poverty line, and the average writer’s income ($12,879) is a full $36,000 below the national average. This despite the fact that writers have invested in post-graduate education in large numbers.
“This is not a sustainable situation,” said TWUC Chair Harry Thurston. “If we want a strong and diverse publishing and cultural industry in Canada, it’s essential that creators are reasonably rewarded. Everyone — governments, corporations, institutions, and individual consumers — have a part to play in fairly compensating writers for the content they expect, need and enjoy.”
Similar findings have emerged from recent income surveys in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Writers’ incomes are in steep decline across the English-language publishing industry. Changes to contracts and publishing practices (declines in royalty percentages and advances on sales), industry consolidation, as well as worldwide pressure on professional creators to work in a disastrously weakened copyright environment are all likely contributors.
“The effect of weaker copyright protection in Canada is clearly indicated,” said TWUC executive director, John Degen. “Writers traditionally cobble together their income from many sources. Copyright royalties are a key part of that income mix, and our survey clearly shows that income slipping away from Canadian writers.”
Worse still, Devaluing Creators, Endangering Creativity, shows an embarrassing gender gap in writers’ incomes in Canada, with women writers earning just 55% of the income earned by their male counterparts.
The Writers’ Union of Canada believes there are near- and long-term solutions to this emergency. TWUC has proposed tax incentives, strategic investments and regulatory changes to the federal government. Through the International Authors Forum, TWUC is also helping to lead the international discussion on contract best practices for writers.