OTTAWA — The head of the government's economic growth advisory council says governments need to find better ways to confront income inequality that risks becoming deeper as technology makes some jobs irrelevant.
Dominic Barton told a conference of university students, administrators and educators that some 40 per cent of existing Canadian jobs will disappear over the coming decade as technology automates their work.
He says that could widen the gulf between rich and poor as those Canadians who aren't on the leading edge of technological change are left behind.
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau (right) looks on as Chairman of the Advisory Council Dominic Barton responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Thursday, October 20, 2016. (Photo: The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
He says the Canadian government has to figure out what to do with older workers whose skills are no longer sought after.
And he says the government must also think ahead to helping students upgrade their skills over the course of their careers — because what they learned in school isn't going to remain as relevant as they think.
"Are our institutions ready to deal with that disruption? Because it's always easy if you're highly educated, and you're on the leading edge of the technology, it's a wonderful world, actually, it's an increasing returns-to-talent world — which means you're going to see much more income inequality,'' said Barton, managing director of global consulting giant McKinsey & Co.
If universities and governments don't find ways to help workers upgrade their skills regularly so that they remain relevant, Barton warned that the longstanding social contract with Canadians could fall apart.
Barton delivered his assessment of the changing economic and technological landscape in a morning speech to a universities conference, hours before the government's growth council released a report outlining ways to help increase and maintain labour market participation in the coming years.