Federal officials were warned over the summer that machines are going to replace more jobs in the workforce in the coming years and that will require a rethink of how government helps the unemployed.
Documents prepared for top officials at Employment and Social Development Canada don’t hint at how federal policy will have to adapt to increased automation in the workforce, noting that predicting the future is a risky proposition.
Experts say what’s missing from the documents is any hint of concern that the rise of the machines is an immediate concern that the government must quickly address.
“Many of the trends that may concern us about technology and automation in terms of what their impacts could be on workers are already happening and that’s, I think, the missing piece here,” said Sunil Johal, policy director with the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto.
“People are projecting this into, well, in 10 years we may be in a difficult situation. The reality is many Canadians are already ill-served by government policies when it comes to skills training, when it comes to employment insurance, when it comes to the broader suite of public services to support Canadians.”
Depending on the methodology used, the Canadian economy could lose between 1.5 million and 7.5 million jobs in the coming years due to automation.
The jobs at the most risk are those that require repetitive activities like an automotive assembly line, although even some high-skilled workers, such as financial advisers, are already being replaced by software programs.
The documents also note that journalists could see themselves increasingly replaced by robots.