The Automation Potential of the B.C. Labour Market: Some Insights

October 30, 2018
David Williams

The role of labour in our economy is changing. Technologies can perform an ever-expanding range of tasks in the production of goods and services. What are the implications of these trends for the British Columbia labour market? A recent BCBC paper explores one aspect of that question. It examines the potential for labour substitution (i.e. automation) from a technical capabilities perspective and based on the composition of provincial and national employment. This edition of Human Capital Law and Policy highlight some of our findings.


  • 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.
  • More than half of B.C. jobs are "sales and service," "business, finance and administration" and "trades, transport and equipment operators" occupations that, on average, face a high probability of eventual automation.
  • B.C. has a slightly greater share of jobs in highly-automatable occupations compared to Canada and could therefore face more adjustment costs associated with technological change.
  • The 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 impact on overall labour demand. There is much uncertainty about the pace of digital innovation, adoption and transformation across the economy.

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