Bridging structural and micro-level factors in cultural labor studies: A multilevel analysis of performing arts administration professionals in Hong Kong

Victor K.W. SHIN*, Ling Tung TSANG, Tommy H.L. TSE

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This study aims to examine how the organizational structure of arts groups and their administrative personnel’s socio-demographic attributes affect the working conditions of and create tensions for their staff. Recent discussion about the cultural industries and labor has pursued two strands – macro-level research expounds on the organization of cultural industries and labor market; and micro-level studies focus on the work and employment of cultural practitioners. Very few of them, however, articulate the relationships between the two levels. This study contributes to the literature with a multilevel framework that examines the interplay between the structural conditions and personal factors in which labor–capital relationships evolve.

This study applies a qualitative approach to collect and analyze data. It conducted 39 in-depth interviews with arts managers and administrators from a sample of 18 performing arts organizations across four performing arts sectors in Hong Kong, namely, drama, music, dance and opera. The stratified sample covers arts organizations of different funding models – the public “nationalized” form, the mixed-economy form, and the privatized form.

This study shows that the funding and organization model of arts organizations resulted in various forms of job structure, and that the practitioners’ socio-demographic background shapes their career expectations. The job structure and career expectations together affect the labor turnover and influence organization strategies.

This study’s methodological contribution lies on its application of a multilevel framework to analyze the relationships between the macro- and the micro-level factors underpinning the working conditions of labor in the cultural industries. Besides, it contributes to the discussion about “labor precariousness” with empirical evidence from a comparative study of arts managers and administrators from organizations across four performing arts sectors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-37
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Transformations in Chinese Societies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This study is based on a public policy research project, “Arts Administrators in Hong Kong,” that was supported by the Central Policy Unit of Hong Kong S.A.R. Government. The first author, as the co-investigator of the project, is thankful for the principal investigator’s (Stephen W.K. Chiu) permission to use the data and information collected. His gratitude goes also to the Hong Kong Arts Administrators Association (HKAAA), the HKADC and major stakeholders of the Hong Kong performing arts sectors, such as Louis Yu, Tisa Ho, Chan Kin Bun, Marble Leung, Margaret Yang, Celina Chin, Dominic Cheung and other informants who have kindly shared their experience and observations in this project. The authors are most grateful to the journal editor and the anonymous reviewers for their useful comments for improving this paper. The responsibility for any errors that remain belongs to the authors alone.


  • Multilevel analysis
  • Arts management
  • Cultural and creative industries
  • Creative labour
  • Organisation model
  • Work and employment


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