Automation means the elimination of jobs, replaced by robots or new technologies, such as artificial intelligence. A solution to the labor crisis? Or a new swarm of unemployed on the horizon? the Rumor Detector notes that no one seems to be able to say with certainty how fast this will happen and which sectors of the economy will be most affected.
1) A majority of jobs at risk of being automated? Fake
In 2016, 10.6% of Canadian workers were at high risk (70% or greater chance) of having their jobs automated, and 29.1% at “moderate risk” (50% to 70% chance). according to Statistics Canada. The agency does not give a time horizon.
This report specified that certain categories of workers were more at risk than others, in particular those aged 55 and over, who did not have a post-secondary diploma in certain fields, who had low literacy or numeracy, low income employment or who worked in manufacturing.
But the estimation of the level of risk varies according to the methodology used and the estimated time horizon. Thereby, according to a 2017 CD Howe study, while jobs highly vulnerable to automation account for 35% of jobs in Canada, these jobs are unlikely to disappear completely in the next few years. And employment sectors where more than three-quarters of employees are at high risk of being replaced by machines, would represent only 1.7% of jobs in the country (or 310,000 positions).
Even the transformation of the most at-risk jobs is not necessarily imminent, according to economist Jim Stafford of McMaster University. The weakness of technological investments by companies, the lack of social acceptability, the barriers linked to work safety and respect for private life, ill-adapted infrastructures and the insufficient requalification of workers, represent barriers to technological transformations, wrote Jim Stafford in a January 2000 report commissioned by the Public Policy Forum.
Thus, in a key sector such as information technology, investment has stagnated since the bursting of the internet bubble in 2000. It had fallen from 1.6% of American GDP in 1980 to approximately 4% in 2000, the threshold at which it is still, according to BSI Economics: she sees this as a sign of a certain leveling off of robotization.
2) Can we foresee automation? Fake
In 2018, OECD estimated that 9.2% of jobs were now fully “automated” in its 21 member countries. But again, depending on the methodology, the numbers can vary considerably. Thus, in Canada, 42% of workers would be threatened by automation within 10 to 20 years, according to a 2016 study from the Brookfield Institute.
It is a little clearer if we analyze by job category. In his Employment report 2021the Institut du Québec (IQ) believes that while routine manual or cognitive work is more at risk, non-routine jobs are much less so, particularly those requiring manual dexterity, non-standardized analytical skills, improvisation, creativity, social skills or empathy…
Marketing consulting firm Forrester Research claimed in 2016 that customer service agents and taxi drivers would soon be endangered species.
“At home, some believe that automation will primarily affect natural resources and agriculture,” comments Éric Noël, from the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. But these sectors represent barely 2.3% of employment in the country. »
The 2021 IQ report, supervised by Mr. Noël, specifies that it is not easy to calculate the automation of jobs, because the numerous studies all have flaws in their estimates of the human / machine replacement rate. “Researchers underestimate or overestimate technologies, workers and the permeability of organizations to change,” writes the organization, which gives the example of truckers: they are threatened by the development of autonomous transport but yet, to date , no sensor offers optimum performance in winter conditions.
“In the retail trade, comments Alain Bélanger, full professor at INRS, perhaps robots will soon fill the shelves of supermarkets, where there are already automated checkouts. But a robot can never help you choose a jacket…”
“Changes in the job market are often not where you think they are,” explains Robert Gagné, from the Department of Applied Economics at HEC Montréal. “I don’t see how we will automate the workers of a Tim Hortons or the attendants of a CHSLD. »
3) Are automated jobs jobs lost forever? Not sure
A 2013 study by two Oxford University researcherswhich is a school for Quebec experts, reported that 47% of American jobs were at risk of being fully or partially automated by 2033. However, in 2021, in the review Societiesone of the two authors, Carl Benedikt Frey, put his conclusions into perspective: subsequent studies indicated that the automation he envisaged would have little impact on the activity rate, since workers succeeded in reclassifying themselves by improving their skills.
Automation will indeed create many jobs in sectors that do not exist today. The IQ gives examples: repairers of domestic robots, home automation systems or telematics for autonomous vehicles, programmers-psychologists of artificial emotional intelligence, lawyers specialized in artificial intelligence for defense files in tactile cyberstimulation, supervisors-correctors in systems automated systems, cybersecurity experts applied to connected objects, hyperspectral data warehousing technicians, etc.
“We tend to exaggerate the sophistication of future technology jobs, even for workers who do not have a bachelor’s degree in computer science,” comments Éric Noël. Many of these jobs will be filled by workers who train accordingly. According to him, the 10 or 20 most popular jobs in ten years do not yet exist.
In some sectors, automation is inevitable: “I don’t see why we should worry that strawberry picking on Île d’Orléans is done by robots: we are already short of agricultural workers,” he says. -he.
4) Unqualified people are more at risk? Fake
Certainly, the more educated — and younger — workers are, the less likely they are to be affected by the automation of jobs. But the diploma is not proof of everything.
Automation will therefore affect office staff more than those in catering or agriculture. The following positions would be particularly at risk of transformation, according to a 2020 Statistics Canada publication already mentioned: receptionist (35.7%), tailor, shoemaker, food service supervisor (20%), electrician (19.7%), sales representative (14.7%), travel or security agent, in customer service (13.7%), equipment operator (13.2%). Manufacturing, food service and accommodation, transportation and warehousing, trade, healthcare and construction sectors are most at risk of being affected by automation, according to Statistics Canada.
Several activities will be little or not affected, such as finance and insurance, also reports the agency. But it’s never black or white: the IQ offers the example of the explosion of startup Quebec companies in fintech, which threaten the finance sector, mainly financial advisors, insurance underwriters and lending activities. The IQ estimates, in its 2021 report, that 37,000 jobs are thus threatened in these sectors in Quebec. Although a number of these workers will be reclassified thanks to activities related to new technologies deployed by fintech or financial institutions.
5) The Great Resignation also occurs in Quebec? Fake
We call it “Great Resignation” (or Great Resignation) those millions of American workers who have recently left the workforce. The phenomenon would be exacerbated by the pandemic. the New York Times published in December 2021 that about 3% of American workers, or 4.3 million people, gave up their jobs last year. By November, five million workers were short of returning to pre-pandemic activity levels, reminded the columnist and Nobel Prize in economics Paul Krugman in this newspaper.
Quoting labor economist Arindrajitt Dube, Krugman believes that these millions of workers simply gave up jobs because the pandemic made them realize they were being paid poorly or had abysmal working conditions, especially among the collar workers. blue. Many people took the opportunity to take early retirement. Automation would therefore have nothing to do with this phenomenon.
However, the Great Resignation would be an unknown phenomenon in Quebec. “There was no significant increase in the beneficiaries of the Régie des rentes du Québec in 2020 and 2021,” says Mia Homsy, CEO of the Institut du Québec. And surveys of job changes within the labor force show a certain stability among those who say they have retired or changed employers. »
Thus, in December 2021, the job change rate (which quantifies the number of workers who change employers) stood at 0.63%, lower than before the pandemic, according to the Employment report. IQ 2021. “When you look at the labor market as a whole, activity rates are historically high, especially among women and older workers,” continues Ms. Homsy.
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