Victoria residents are no strangers to using self-checkout stations at grocery stores, and according to a new report by the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC), almost half of all B.C. jobs have the potential for automation in the next 10 – 20 years.

The report by BCBC examined the impact of automated technology in the B.C. labour market in 2018, and concluded that roughly 42% of jobs in the province have a high potential of automation within the next one to two decades, from a technical capabilities standpoint.

According to the report, B.C. has slightly higher amount of highly-automatible occupations compared to the rest of the country.

“About 90% of B.C. jobs are in occupations where at least 10% of tasks can be automated by a current technology,” says study author David Williams, the BCBC’s vice-president of policy in the report.

“About 35% of jobs are in occupations where at least 50% of tasks are automatable. And about 11% of jobs are in occupations where 80% or more of the tasks are automatable.”

The report claims that over half of all jobs in B.C. are related to the industries of sales and service, finance and administration, transport and equipment operators, trades, and business, which are all occupations that run a high risk of automated replacement, on average.

BCBC is quick to clarify that the study is purely risk-assessment, measuring what technology could replace, not what it will replace.

“There is much uncertainty about the pace of digital innovation, adoption and transformation across the economy,” says the Williams. “The actual pace and extent of automation will depend on non-technical factors as well, including economic, social and regulatory developments.”

“Furthermore, productivity gains and the creation of new roles for labour could more than offset automation’s effects on overall labour demand.”

The report concludes with a reminder that the growth of automated technology will inevitably change the employment landscape.

“The central message for policy-makers and business decision-makers is that labour’s role in the production process is changing.”

“New technologies offer the potential to increase labour productivity, raise living standards and create new job specializations. However, there can also be significant, unevenly-distributed adjustment costs from job destruction and dislocation that cause economic and social distress.”

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