Will a robot be doing your job in 10 years?

Staying competitive in the labour force means keeping one step ahead of the machines

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Canadian workers expecting to remain viable in the face of increasing labour force automation will need to focus on training for more highly-skilled occupations that still rely on humans’ “cognitive advantage over technology,” a new report concludes.

Researchers from the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University found that nearly 42% of Canadian jobs are at high risk of being restructured or eliminated altogether by existing advanced robotics and artificial intelligence over the next 10 to 20 years. These mainly include lower paying occupations requiring less education, which tend to be more routine, administrative and service-oriented, such as a retail salesperson or a transport truck driver.

On the other hand, jobs that are considered to be at a low risk of being replaced by automated technology are linked to high skill levels and higher earnings, such as management and jobs in science, technology, engineering and math. In fact, these types of low-risk occupations are projected to produce nearly 712,000 net new jobs for Canadians between 2014 and 2024 while lines of work at high risk of automation are only expected to add 396,000 jobs over the same time period, according to the report.

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While the Canada-wide statistics for occupations at high risk of being affected by automation remain relatively consistent across provinces, the researchers did observe that Ontario has the lowest proportion of the employed labour force at high risk, at just over 41%, while P.E.I. has the highest proportion, at just over 45%.

“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 Sean Mullin, executive director of the Brookfield Institute, in a release.

Top five jobs—with the most employees—at high risk of automation:

  1. Retail salesperson: 92% probability of automation and more than 656,000 employees
  2. Administrative assistant: 96% probability of automation and nearly 329,000 employees
  3. Food counter attendants and kitchen helpers: 91.5% probability of automation and nearly 313,000 employees
  4. Cashiers: 97% probability of automation and nearly 309,000 employees
  5. Transport truck drivers: 79% probability of automation and nearly 262,000 employees

Top five jobs—with the most employees—at low risk of automation:

  1. Retail and wholesale trade managers: 20.5% probability of automation and more than 363,000 employees
  2. Registered nurses: 0.9% probability of automation and more than 291,000 employees
  3. Elementary and kindergarten teachers: 0.4% probability of automation and more than 271,000 employees
  4. Early childhood educators and assistants: 0.7% probability of automation and nearly 188,000 employees
  5. Secondary school teachers: 0.8% probability of automation and nearly 174,000 employees

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