The Automation Potential of the British Columbia Labour Market

November 1, 2018
David Williams

This research paper, prepared by David Williams, Vice President of Policy, takes a closer look at the potential impact of automation on the B.C. labour market. This is the first study that considers how AI, robotics and other digital technologies may affect the demand for labour in the B.C. context. For a summary of this research, see the October issue of our Human Capital Law and Policy newsletter.


  • Labour’s role in the economy is changing. Technologies can perform an ever-expanding range of tasks in the production of goods and services.
  • About 42% of B.C. jobs are in occupations where there is significant potential for automation in the next 20 years, based on technical considerations.
  • B.C. has a slightly greater share of jobs in highly-automatable occupations compared to Canada and could therefore face more adjustment costs. Low-income workers could bear a disproportionate share of these costs. Automation could also exacerbate B.C.’s negative employment income gap relative to Canada, all else being equal.
  • More than half of B.C. jobs are in "sales and service," "business, finance and administration" and "trades, transport and equipment operators" occupations that are highly automatable, on average.
  • About 90% of B.C. jobs are in occupations where at least 10% of tasks can be automated by a current technology. 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.
  • There is much uncertainty about the pace of digital innovation, adoption and transformation across the economy. This study is a technically-focused risk assessment only. 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.

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