Statistics Canada finds gradual shift from occupations involving routine tasks to those involving non-routine tasks
Looking back over 30 years, there’s been a gradual shift from occupations involving routine tasks to those involving non-routine tasks ― but no sudden shifts as the development of AI expanded.
“This suggests that — at least until 2018 — AI has not accelerated the changing nature of work in Canada, which had already been underway for decades,” says Statistics Canada.
Specifically, the share of Canadians working in managerial, professional and technical occupations (generally associated with non-routine, cognitive tasks) increased from 23.8 per cent in 1987 to 31.2 per cent in 2018, according to the report.
The share of those employed in service occupations (non-routine, manual tasks) also increased, though more moderately, from 19.2 per cent to 21.8 per cent) over the same period.
The slight increase in the share of employees in service occupations (which are automatable in many cases) is explained in large part by changes in the industrial structure, including the increase in demand for healthcare, says the government, while the share of workers in service occupations more or less ceased to grow since 2010.
Previously, two Statistics Canada studies found that employers that invested in robots between 1996 and 2017 ended up employing more, not fewer, workers.
On the flip side, more routine (and automatable) occupations are on the decline. The share of workers employed in production, craft, repair and operative occupations (routine, manual tasks) dropped from 29.7 per cent in 1987 to 22.2 per cent in 2018.
Also, the share employed in sales, clerical and administrative support occupations (routine cognitive tasks) decreased over the period, from 27.3 per cent in 1987 to 24.9 per cent in 2018.
Canada could lose as many as 1.2 million jobs by the year 2028 because of automation, according to a C.D. Howe report supported by the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University and the Future Skills Centre.
Statistics Canada also says that “job tasks that are complementary to automation, such as non-routine cognitive tasks, were somewhat more important in Canadians' jobs in 2018 than in 2011”.
The following job tasks that are complementary to automation, such as non-routine cognitive tasks, were somewhat more important in Canadians' jobs in 2018 than in 2011:
- analyzing data or information (increased by 3.7 per cent)
- interpersonal tasks such as coaching and developing others (increased by 3.6 per cent)
- guiding, directing and motivating others (increased by 3.5 per cent)
“However, there were no large, systematic declines observed in the importance of more routine, manual tasks from 2011 to 2018, as might have been expected given that automation technology may be able to perform these tasks in certain instances,” says Statistics Canada
Women and men both face the risk of automation in the workplace, but their risk levels differ, according to a previous study released by StatCan.
Tips for employers
“Automation can and does make certain jobs obsolete. At the same time, however, it also creates opportunities for new jobs,” says CGT Staffing, a recruiting and staffing agency. “In any case, the impact of automation has been felt across a diverse range of industries and business functions for some time now.”
CGT Staffing shared tips on how employers can handle automation properly:
- Be transparent about new changes and the necessary implications of change.
- Be specific about the impact of automation.
- Engage with employees on a personal, one-on-one basis; specifically, the employees most affected by automation.
- Offer a formal program within your organization to help with workforce adaption to help ease the adjustment.