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The future is now: Creating decent work post-pandemic

Artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, the sharing economy and other emerging technologies were expected to upend the nature of how people work, eliminate an array of routine and repetitive tasks, and put pressure on social support frameworks designed for a different era. These impacts expected to be felt in the near to medium term suddenly find themselves present. The [Coronavirus Disease 2019] COVID-19 pandemic, which swept across the globe in the early months of 2020, has rapidly accelerated long-standing trends in labour markets and economies around the world. Income inequality, precarious work and the digitization of the economy are now issues that policymakers must grapple with immediately, or risk economic ruin and social upheaval. How can Canada prepare for the future of work in a way that protects and supports those who will suffer most as a result of the pandemic? Young people, workers in the service and hospitality sectors, women, historically marginalized groups and older workers are all likely to face a steeper uphill climb in the years ahead. This paper reviews the current state of Canada’s labour market, explores key trends related to the nature and quality of work, and considers which trends might accelerate or change course post-pandemic. It concludes with a series of policy recommendations charting a course toward a more inclusive and resilient Canadian economy that prioritizes decent work.