What, exactly, did we do?

In 2018, we set out to add a new and forward-looking perspective to the Canadian labour market information landscape. Since we were unable to procure any crystal balls, we asked what work might look like in the next decade based on the information available. Our goal was to develop a forecast of employment growth and skills for the year 2030 to better understand the changes underway. One that could consider how employment might evolve based on both historic and emerging disruptive trends, as well as expert insights into how these trends might shift and interact in the future.

We began our Employment in 2030 project by identifying some of the major trends shaping the future of work, from increasing inequality to resource scarcity and technological change. We then convened experts across the country to consider how these trends might interact and impact employment for specific occupations. We imagined new and dream jobs (our favourites include dark web detective and consumption reduction consultants!), while also leveraging the data we gathered to create an employment forecast driven by this expert data and occupational skill composition. 

With our forecast in hand, we sought to understand how and where policy might be best applied to expand opportunities and mitigate the risks along the way. For our accompanying report, Ahead by a Decade, we used our forecast to start answering a few important questions: What occupations are projected to grow or decline relative to national employment a decade from now? Who is in these occupations now? Who isn’t? What can we start to do about it? What skills will be necessary to navigate these changes? 

As we contend with the current COVID-19 crisis, thinking about recovery with these questions in mind will be incredibly important. Although the research driving this forecast was completed before the crisis, it remains a valuable planning tool for the long term as decision makers come together to chart a future after the pandemic. Our Executive Director, Sean Mullin, also reflects on the importance of forecasts in times of extreme uncertainty. 

What did we find?

Our Forecast of Occupational Growth (FCOG) is a clear signal of change to come. In Canada, 19% of workers hold jobs in occupations that are projected to grow, while 15% are employed in occupations projected to decline relative to national employment in the next decade. As expected, occupations in health and science are projected to grow, with jobs like nursing, and industrial engineering leading the way. Professions with a high degree of service orientation and technical expertise, such as chefs or graphic designers, are also projected to increase by 2030. Not only were we concerned with the growing and declining occupations, we wanted to identify the skills and abilities driving these changes and which ones would be foundational for the labour market in 2030. They include social skills like instruction, persuasion, and service orientation, as well as cognitive abilities like fluency of ideas (i.e. brainstorming, or the ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic where the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity) and memorization (i.e., the ability to readily recall information, such as how to perform a medical procedure). 

Our analysis reveals that the risks, resilience, and opportunities that these changes may bring with them will affect workers and regions in disparate ways. Education, income, and sex have a part in determining how these risks and opportunities play out, as do factors such as Indigenous identity, immigration, and race. We point to some of the areas where policy and program design can proactively support worker and employer resilience by highlighting the occupations, industries, regions and people who may face more disruption, as well as the skills and abilities that could help them adjust. For example, we find that while men are likely to face more risk in the future, women -particularly those in occupations projected to decline- are paid less and may therefore be more vulnerable to change.