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Automation not an “imminent threat” to Canadian jobs: report

The report, by Toronto-based think tank C.D. Howe Institute, said industries at “high risk” of automation make up just 1.7 per cent of the Canadian workforce.


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March 17, 2017 by Canadian Plastics

Despite numerous claims to the contrary, the growing use of robotic automation is unlikely to cause widespread jobs losses in Canada’s workforce in the near future, a new report said.

According to the report, from Toronto-based research firm C.D. Howe Institute, just 1.7 per cent of the Canadian workforce, or about 310,000 people, are employed in industries with a high risk of automation. On the other side of the spectrum, 27.5 per cent of workers, or about 4.9 million, are in fields with a low risk of automation.

“We find no evidence of an imminent threat of massive unemployment due to automation,” Rosalie Wyonch, one of the report’s authors, said in a statement. “The automation of job tasks is part of the natural process of technological innovation and a necessary engine of economic growth. The challenge for policymakers is creating a policy environment that cushions displaced workers and develops in-demand workforce skills.”

The report sharply contradicts a number of other recent studies, including a report last year from Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University, which concluded that 42 per cent of Canadian jobs could be at risk over the  next 10 to 20 years.

Though the C.D. Howe report acknowledges some industries and jobs are particularly vulnerable, it expects the workforce to adapt. “New technology does not simply make people redundant; rather, it reduces the labour required for a given level of production,” said Matthias Oschinski, another of the report’s authors. “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.”

The report noted that current labour market trends highlight a gradual shift to jobs that require higher skill levels. It noted that the process is already underway and should be encouraged by public and private institutions.

To access the C.D. Howe Institute report, click on this link.