Canadian Manufacturing

Canadians welcome technology at work, but not everybody is benefiting

Majorities say that technology has made their job easier, Environics Institute survey shows, but impacts on job security, wages are unevenly distributed

September 16, 2020  by CM Staff

TORONTO — A new Environics Institute survey reveals that Canadians generally take a favourable view of technology in the workplace. Two-thirds of Canadians in the labour force report that computer technology has changed the way they do their jobs, with most rating the effects of technology as positive or neutral.

The 2020 Survey on Employment and Skills, conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research in partnership with the Future Skills Centre and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, found that a majority of workers described their jobs as easier or even more enjoyable, thanks to new technology, while only a minority said their jobs had become less enjoyable, more difficult, less well-paid or less secure.

As welcome as those results might seem, they come with a qualification: the effects of technology in the workplace are uneven. Men are more likely than women to report higher income and higher job security as a result of new technology, and managerial workers are more likely than those in sales and retail to have experienced an increase in earnings.

“Canadians generally seem to be open to technological change in the workplace,” said Andrew Parkin, executive director of the Environics Institute, in a prepared statement. “But this doesn’t mean that everyone will benefit equally. They won’t, and it’s important to focus on those Canadians who are benefitting least or even being left behind.”

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The Survey revealed that Canadians also have positive views of the skills training they receive. Half of Canadians in the labour force participated in a work-related training course over the past five years, and up to 90% judged it useful in developing skills that helped them do their work better. But again, the impact of training is uneven. Those who least need it are the most likely to access it—notably full-time workers, professionals, executives, managers and the university-educated.

“We need to evolve what we’re trying to achieve with job training for the emerging world of work,” said Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre. “Upskilling and reskilling is becoming a reality for virtually everyone in our new economy, so skills training should follow suit and be available on a broad scale. But we want to make sure that training contributes to inclusive outcomes that don’t reinforce inequality. Job training needs to be widely available, but also carefully targeted and prioritized to account for barriers based on the kind of job you have, as well as your income, race, disability, gender and other categories.”