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Race alongside the machines: Occupational digitalization trends in Canada, 2006-2021

Over the past few decades, technology has completely transformed and reshaped the way many jobs are done. Both the skills needed and the tasks being completed by workers across different industries have undergone significant changes.

In Canada, the National Occupational Classification (NOC) provides a valuable classification of jobs, including within different skill groups. In this study, we examine how important digital skills are across NOC occupations, observing patterns of change in digitalization across jobs across the past 15 years.

As reliance on data and digital technology increases, many jobs that once required little to no digital skills, are becoming dependent on the abilities of workers to deal with databases and computer technology. An example could be found in healthcare professions, where doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals now rely almost entirely on computer systems to log case details, follow up with patients, and communicate with other healthcare professionals working on the same case. Understanding which jobs have changed the most, and which type of digital skills are changing, is important in informing better policies to prepare workers for the future.

This report is part of Digitalization in Canada, a two-part series exploring how digital technology has impacted individual workers and their jobs, and how that impact has affected the tech labour force in terms of worker inclusion, productivity, and pay.

Artwork by Jesseca Buizon
Artwork by Jesseca Buizon

Key insights

In the last 15 years, occupations associated with routine work saw the highest rates of digitalization. Jobs with the highest rates of digitalization were those that managed data, i.e., property managers, health information management, railway conductors, and scheduling coordinators.

In the last five years, however, jobs most associated with non-routine work are the top movers in digitalization. The top occupations identified were photographic and film processors, physicians, and engineering inspectors.

Digital technologies assist workers with carrying out work requiring a high level of reasoning and analytical skills. Workers who used technology to perform routine tasks saw more independence and autonomy in how they carried out their work, leaving them to focus on tasks that required more analytical thinking and higher reasoning.

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