Preparing for a different future

In its review of Canada’s job creation performance for the past year, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce presents a largely discouraging picture. Canada generated just 99,000 net new jobs, and about 95 per cent of these were part-time jobs, according to the Chamber.

In its review of Canada’s job creation performance for the past year, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce presents a largely discouraging picture. Canada generated just 99,000 net new jobs, and about 95 per cent of these were part-time jobs, according to the Chamber.

Moreover, the majority of net new jobs went to those 55 and older.

This is not the picture of a robust economy.

A mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and the skills employers need is often blamed for Canada’s high unemployment and there’s no question skills shortages make the situation worse.

Yet if all the job vacancies reported by Statistics Canada were filled by those currently unemployed, there would still be more than one million unemployed Canadians.

The recent federal budget focused on skills upgrading and training, which is important if more Canadians are to have the opportunity to acquire in-demand skills.

But the real issue goes beyond that.

We don’t have a handle on is what kind of economy, and what mixture of jobs, Canada will need in the future.

What kind of world should we be preparing for, and how do we shape it to our benefit?

These are not easy questions, but Canada could learn from the U.K. Commission for Employment and Skills, which has just issued an important report, The Future of Work: Jobs and Skills in 2030.

The commission identified what it called the 13 most influential and plausible trends impacting the jobs and skills landscape and most of these trends would apply in Canada as well.

They include: Demographic change (including population aging); the impact of information and communications technology (ICT), outsourcing and globalization on the work environment; the digitalization of production (including advanced manufacturing technologies); ICT development and the age of big data; changing economic perspectives due to globalization and technological change; Asia’s growing power and influence; new business ecosystems based on networks; and climate change and other environmental risks.

The commission ends up with four possible scenarios.

But each of them, in differing ways, points to a risk of weakened job security for much of the workforce, the prospect of a two-tier society of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ growing power of employers over employees, a widening income gap, the risk of an hourglass-shaped labour market with the squeezed middle of the workforce watching jobs disappear, and the threat to many jobs, including professional jobs, from advances in technology.

“Jobs which have traditionally occupied the middle of the skills hierarchy and earnings range, such as white collar administrative roles and skilled/semi-skilled blue-collar roles, are declining at a significant rate due to changes in work organization driven by technology and globalization,” the commission warns.

“New types of jobs are emerging to fill the middle grounds but these have markedly different entry routes and skill requirements.”

At the same time as many jobs are threatened, there could be a shortage of high-skilled talent. The commission also expects there will be growth in health and social care jobs with an aging population, but with technology changing the profile of many jobs.

Many professional jobs could be automated, including the impact of ICT using smart algorithms. Automation in the back office, e-commerce and other technology impacts will change the skills mix in retailing and logistics.

A successful manufacturing sector will have to respond to globalization, new technologies, and changing patterns of international trade by shifting to advanced manufacturing systems and a highly-skilled workforce in production networks.

The education sector will play a bigger role with the development of market-based and employer focused education, greater use of online education and training and a greater demand for programs that can demonstrate future employability.

In Canada we face huge challenges in trying to understand what the future holds, and this not only affects jobs and incomes.

It affects innovation strategy, the design of the pension system, the kinds of training and mobility programs we have, what we teach in schools, and how, and the work rules to protect employees in a world where there may be many more temporary jobs, to give just some examples.

We need to much better understand what kinds of jobs and incomes can Canadians look forward to, and how do we best prepare Canadians for a much different future.

We will pay a big price if we delay getting much better focused on our future world and what we can do to shape it to our benefit.

Economist David Crane is a syndicated Toronto Star columnist. He can be reached at crane@interlog.com.

Just Posted

Experts offer tips about how to prevent online ad spoilers during the holidays

Looking to prevent your Christmas surprises from being spoiled by online ads… Continue reading

Fast-expanding seafood giant joins Irvings, McCains as N.B. business royalty

FREDERICTON — For the Irvings, it was Bouctouche. For the McCains, Florenceville.… Continue reading

Washington state combats collisions with new wildlife bridge

SNOQUALMIE PASS, Wash. — Before descending the Cascade Mountains on its final… Continue reading

China says it has no information on detained ex-Canadian diplomat

BEIJING — China’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that it had no information… Continue reading

Study finds female-led films outperform male ones

NEW YORK — A study organized by Time’s Up, the organization formed… Continue reading

Price Is Right contestant wins winter trip to Winnipeg, Churchill

WINNIPEG — Who wants to visit Winnipeg in the dead of winter?… Continue reading

CBC Gem streaming service to launch exclusive content, partners with Wattpad

TORONTO — The CBC has launched a new streaming service featuring live… Continue reading

‘Part of the solution:’ Alberta seeks proposals to build new refinery

EDMONTON — Alberta is looking for someone to build a new oil… Continue reading

Online ads spoil Christmas surprises, raising privacy concerns: experts

Lisa Clyburn knew she had found the perfect gift for her nine-year-old… Continue reading

Sebastian Giovinco, Jonathan Osorio and Adriana Leon up for top CONCACAF awards

Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco and Jonathan Osorio are up for CONCACAF male… Continue reading

Huitema, Cornelius named 2018 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

TORONTO — Canada Soccer has named striker Jordyn Huitema and defender Derek… Continue reading

Review: Too much Spider-Man? Not in the Spider-Verse

You might be forgiven for feeling superhero overload this holiday season. Had… Continue reading

Most Read