Automation poses no doomsday scenario for jobs in Canada

C.D. Howe Institute report finds some industries occupations will be disrupted more than others.

Team robots welding automotive part in factory

TORONTO — Automation poses no doomsday scenario for jobs in Canada, says a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.

The Toronto-based research firm finds a drastic shift in employment resulting from the adoption of automation technology is unlikely in the near future, although particular industries and types of occupations will be disrupted more than others.

Future Shock? The Impact of Automation on Canada’s Labour Market  finds labour market trends show a gradual shift to jobs that require higher skill levels.

“New technology does not simply make people redundant; rather, it reduces the labour required for a given level of production,” says report co-author Matthias Oschinski. “This means that more of the same goods can be produced or people can be redeployed in areas that otherwise might not have been developed.”

He advised policy that encourages collaboration between public and private institutions would ensure workers have the necessary skills for new employment.

Here are some highlights from the report:

• Canadian employment is concentrated in industries that have a low risk of automation. Industries where less than a quarter of the jobs are susceptible to automation account for 27.5% of total employment (4.9 million jobs).

• Industries where more than three-quarters of the jobs are at high risk of automation account for only 1.7% of employment (310,000 jobs). This implies that Canada’s diversified economy and labour force are well positioned to adapt to rapid technological change.

• Occupations high in abstract, complex-decision-making skills with a strong focus on creativity, critical thinking and interpersonal social skills have a relatively low risk of being automated.

• It’s very unlikely that employment in occupations highly susceptible to automation (35% of Canada’s employment) will be completely replaced by smart machines over the next few years.

As the rate of technological progress increases and digitization permeates different occupations and industries, the report notes technical job-specific skills might become obsolete relatively quickly. This indicates a need to increase opportunities for continuous education and lifelong learning.

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