How can the economy grow?
Preparing for an increasingly digital economy
Technology—such as automation—can have a massive effect on the labour market, making early policy action necessary to help those who are negatively affected.
The industry sectors with the most likelihood of automation include:
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing
- Accommodation and food services
- Transportation and warehousing
- Retail trade
- Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction
By 2040, Atlantic Canadian jobs will only increase in the manufacturing, utilities, and health and social services sectors. In comparison, the rest of Canada will see increases in all industries except agriculture.
The proportion of jobs in the manufacturing sector will increase slightly in all provinces by 2040, but will require higher skills because of advances in technology.
Readiness to adapt to the technological changes is measured based on core skills (literacy, numeracy, and problem solving) and advanced education, which allow workers to redeploy their skills with relatively minor retraining in the event that their job is automated.
The adult populations of New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador score lowest on all core skills and have a smaller proportion of higher education than other Canadian provinces.
Nova Scotians score above average in terms of skills and risk of automation is similar to the Canadian average. Meanwhile, Prince Edward Island faces the highest risk of technological unemployment.
The risk of automation is higher for vulnerable, remote, and less educated workers. Vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples and recent immigrants, are at a greater risk of losing their jobs to technology over the next 10-20 years. This also reflects the impact of lower levels of education, as less educated workers are more likely to have jobs with a high risk of automation.
With less-educated workforces and less-diversified local economies, rural areas and small towns may find it increasingly hard to adapt and seize the economic opportunities presented by new technologies.
As these transformative technologies impact Atlantic Canada, businesses need to adapt by assisting those displaced and by having the right combination of aptitudes, competencies, knowledge and experience to drive this modern economy.
For employers, this means reviewing how their employment strategies are structured and organized, as well as the importance of early recruitment, upskilling, and recruiting from within, and the benefits of diversity and inclusion.
The scale and pace of the impact on the labour force could be amplified by new and emerging technologies, especially if there are barriers to workforce retraining or if education systems are too slow to adapt to changing employer needs.
To meet the demand for these high-skilled jobs, talent and skills development must be continuous and happen alongside technological changes. Unless there is a concerted effort between government, academic institutions, and companies seeking talent, the region’s current shortages will only be accentuated.
 C.D. Howe Institute, Future Shock? The Impact of Automation on Canada’s Labour Market, March 2017.
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