Digitalization in Canada: Past, present and future

How have digital technologies shifted the landscape of tech work in Canada, and what challenges lie ahead?

Project Team

Viet Vu
Manager, Economic Research
Ibrahim Abuallail
Innovation Policy Intern

Why we’re doing this project 

Digitalization continues to impact every single occupation in Canada. But how it affects individual workers and their jobs, matters. Technology shouldn’t be a force that happens to us, nor should it replace valuable human talent. 

In our 2018 report,  Better, Faster, Stronger, we explored the dual challenge of automation in Ontario, where many firms hesitate to adopt technologies known to improve productivity and competitiveness. However, firms that do adopt them can bring about significant disruptions to workers’ income and well-being, while others flourish. 

Digitalization in Canada is a two-part report series, that expands on the dual challenge by 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 across 500 occupations in Canada.

Further and Further Away: Canada’s unrealized digital potential offers a comprehensive insight into why Canada is not using our tech workforce to its highest potential. We use most recent census data from 2001 to 2016 to examine how digitalization has affected tech workers based on selected identity characteristics (race, sex, age, experience, province of residence).

The report also includes a Salary Gap Calculator. This interactive tool allows you to track pay gaps amongst demographic groups that have been historically underrepresented in Canada’s economy. Demographic characteristics analyzed include: sex, race, province of residence, immigration status and age (proxied by experience).

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In Race Alongside the Machines: Occupational Digitalization Trends in Canada, 2006-2021, we set out to gain insight into how technology has changed tech work by measuring digital intensity and the rate of change in digital intensity across 500 occupations in Canada in the past 15 years.

This project will provide policymakers, business leaders, workforce developers, and unions with an understanding of how to address the dual challenge of increasing technology adoption while ensuring that it augments and complements work. And ultimately, ensure that the tech workforce is representative of Canada’s diverse population and is equitable in salary and participation.

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Digitalization: Europe Edition 

Digitalization of Work: The Case of Europe draws upon the previous two reports and provides insights to researchers looking to replicate the work or conduct similar studies for Europe. The brief highlights potential differences in how digital technology impacts workers in Canada and Europe.

In this brief, we acknowledge the wide heterogeneity across EU member states and discuss the importance of using comparable data sources while ensuring that local and unique details of member states are not ignored. We also discuss the importance of the consideration of an equity framework within the context of the EU. Evidence suggests that there is likely room for more effective use of the potential of digital workers in Europe, rendering similar work ever more important.

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We use individual-level data from four Canadian census waves from 2001 to 2016, to understand how the impact of technology adoption has changed tech work over the 15-year study period. Further and Further Away covers up to 2016, as this is the most recent dataset from Census Canada available. 

Using regressional analysis, we identify specific inequities in pay and labour participation faced by workers belonging to identity groups that have been historically marginalized in Canada.

To measure digital intensity and the rate of change in digital intensity across all occupations in Canada,  we combine an analytical framework from our 2019 report, Who Are Canada’s Tech Workers, to define technology workers. We combine that framework with the National Occupational Classification (NOC) data from 2006 to 2021. As the NOC lacks detailed data on the skills needed to perform each job, we use a crosswalk with the American equivalent, O*NETOnLine.

Our Funders and Supporters

Further and Further Away: Canada’s unrealized digital potential was funded by Facebook’s research grant – Economic Impact of Digital Technologies. The grant was made as an unconditional gift to the university, and the authors retain full editorial control.

Further and Further Away was also supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), as well as the Future Skills Centre.

Race Alongside the Machines was funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre.

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

Deep Dive

6 Results


Dec 5, 2022

Systemic labour market inequities in pay and participation continue to persist, and, in some cases, have gotten worse, in that there are new inequities in 2016 that did not exist in 2001.
NEW RESEARCH: Inequities in pay and participation persist for women, PoC, immigrants in Canada’s tech workforce, report findings show

Nov 30, 2022

We developed two updated versions of our original crosswalk, which underpin our latest findings in the Digitalization in Canada project.
The O*NET/NOC Crosswalk, an update.

Nov 30, 2022

Pay gaps and the continued marginalization of participation in tech work has shown that those who create technologies in Canada do not fully represent those who live and work here.
Further and Further Away: Canada’s unrealized digital potential

Nov 30, 2022

Ceux qui créent et utilisent les technologies au Canada ne représentent pas ceux qui vivent et travaillent ici.
De plus en plus loin : Le potentiel numérique sous-exploité du Canada
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