How the Future of Automation Will Affect Human Roles in the Workplace

Automation is transforming traditional occupations, changing the day-to-day tasks of workers—and potentially creating new jobs, suggests new research from the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

The report, entitled “The Talented Mr. Robot: The Impact of Automation on Canada’s Workforce,” analyzes automation and how it will directly affect the labor market over the next 10 to 20 years.

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The report indicates that nearly 42 percent of the Canadian labor force is at a high risk of being affected by automation in the future. For years, automation has been restricted to routine, manual tasks; however more recent rise of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics means that automation is now entering the realm of cognitive, non-routine tasks and occupations, such as driving and conducting job interviews.

“Our findings show that a significant percentage of Canadian jobs are at a high risk of being replaced by automation over the next 10 to 20 years,” said Sean Mullin, Executive Director of BII+E. “However, we don’t believe that all of these jobs will be lost. Many will be restructured and new jobs will be created as the nature of occupations change due to the impact of technology and computerization.”

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Jobs that are considered to be at a low risk of automation are linked with high skill levels and higher earnings, such as management and jobs in science, technology, engineering and math. The vast majority of high-risk occupations are in office support and general administration, sales and services, transportation and distribution, lower skilled technical occupations in health, natural and applied sciences, as well as manufacturing and construction laborers and assemblers.

Approximately 36 per cent of Canada’s employed labor force is at a low risk of automation.

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“We hope these findings can help contribute to an important debate about how Canada should prepare for the effects of automation and computerization on our labour force,” said Mullin.

The findings contained within “The Talented Mr. Robot: The Impact of Automation on Canada’s Workforce” are based on methodologies pioneered by Oxford Professors Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne and from management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, and applied to Canadian data for the first time.

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