About 46 per cent of the work done in Canada is at risk of being taken by machines, according to a report that seeks to identify the industries and places across the country that are most vulnerable to automation.
The report from the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship doesn’t argue that automation is a bad thing.
“In the long run, technology has often helped to produce more jobs than it destroyed,” researchers Creig Lamb and Matthew Lo wrote.
Jobs in food services and accommodation are at greatest risk of automation in Canada, with 69 per cent of the work done in those fields at risk of being replaced by machines.
But in the short run, automation can displace large numbers of employees whose skills have become redundant.
“Current predictions suggest that these technologies are likely to disproportionately affect lower paying, lower skilled jobs,” the report said.
Automation could replace the equivalent of 7.7 million jobs in Canada, the report estimates.
But that doesn’t mean 7.7 million people will simply lose their jobs. Automation usually replaces only certain parts of a job — which still reduces the overall demand for people doing that job.
“Small regional economies specializing in manufacturing or mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction are most susceptible to automation, including Woodstock, Ont., Tillsonburg, Ont. and Quesnel, B.C.,” the researchers found.
In those places, about 50 per cent of all work is at risk.
Those areas most immune to automation are those that rely heavily on hospitals, post-secondary schools and government for employment.
Petawawa, Ont., comes out on top as the town with the least work at risk of automation, with 42.5 per cent of its jobs vulnerable. That’s followed by Ottawa-Gatineau and Fredericton, N.B.
Looking at jobs by industry, the differences are much more striking.
Accommodation and food service jobs have the highest risk of automation, the study found, followed by jobs in manufacturing and transportation and warehousing.
“About 62 per cent of work activities could be automated within these industries,” the researchers wrote — somewhat concerning, given that these sectors are among the country’s largest employers.
At the other end of the spectrum, jobs in education have the lowest risk of automation. But that still means about 30 per cent of the work done in education could be automated.
Health care jobs, as well as professional, scientific and technical jobs, are also among the least vulnerable to automation.