Yesterday’s Gone: Exploring the future of Canada’s labour market in a post-COVID world

In this report, we explore a broad range of trends with the potential to impact Canada’s labour market over the coming decade—many of which have been accelerated, disrupted, or created by COVID-19
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Heather Russek
Collaborator, Innovation Design + Futures
Jessica Thornton
Collaborator
Darren Elias
Collaborator
February 10, 2021
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About the report

Canada’s economy is adapting to a host of recent changes, from a rapid shift to remote work, to altered global power dynamics, and uneven responses to the climate emergency. The extent of these changes and the level of uncertainty about the future has been amplified by COVID-19. In this environment, it is critical to understand the breadth of potential changes ahead so we can better prepare workers for the future of Canada’s labour market. 

Yesterday’s Gone identifies eight megatrends and 34 related meso trends with the potential to impact employment in Canada by 2030. The goal of this research is to explore these technological, social, economic, environmental and political changes and to inform the design of skills-demand programs and policy responses. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new uncertainties about our future trajectories.. Imaginative and exploratory thinking can help leaders consider the broad range of potential challenges around the corner—and prepare for what is to come.

The themes that emerged from our research, conducted in late 2020, can be organized into eight megatrends. Read more about them, and the meso trends grouped within: 

Our Lives Online Capitalism in Question
Climate in Crisis Reconciliation + Anti-Racism
Shifting Power Evolving Population
Technology to the Rescue Finding Meaning + Well-Being

This research, part of our Employment in 2030 initiative, builds on our previous work. Turn and Face the Strange. a report we released in March 2019,  identified 31 broad trends impacting the future of employment. Many of these trends are revisited in Yesterday’s Gone.In some cases, they’ve accelerated. Others have shifted direction or waned in importance in light of COVID-19.

This report is not meant to be a comprehensive overview, a prediction of the future, or a deep analysis of any one trend. It’s meant to spark exploratory thinking about the potential for different trends to interact, and to impact different populations and demographic groups unequally in ways that are not always obvious. We are encouraging our readers to ask: What if? What if the space economy becomes a key area of growth in Canada? What if Indigenous Land Back movements gain significant traction? What if the workaholic culture becomes a thing of the past?

Yesterday’s Gone is the first report of the Employment in 2030: Action Labs project. It will help to inform prototyping of potential adaptations to existing service offerings, or new interventions, aimed at helping workers gain the skills and abilities they need to be resilient in the next decade. Collaboration with six partner organizations and other participants will take place from January – May 2021. 

Read this report to help you: 
  • Imagine and explore a broad range of trends with the potential to impact the future of employment in Canada over the coming decade
  • Understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and disrupted pre-existing trends, or generated new trajectories
  • Understand how these trends may interact with one another to impact Canada’s labour market
  • Explore possible future scenarios for work in Canada

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Key findings from the report:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and intensified pre-existing trends such as automation and digitization while forcing society to rethink many of our assumptions, from the way we work and learn to our socioeconomic structures and systems.
  • COVID-19 has also given rise to new trends, including a newfound appreciation of nature and avoidance of crowds and public spaces. While some of changes may be temporary, or relatively weak signals of potentially lasting change, they could have longer term implications for the labour market.
  • Topics that may at first seem unrelated to Canada’s labour market, such as floods, air pollution, and responsible AI, all have the potential to impact the future of work.
  • To support future-focused planning and avoid blind spots, it is important to recognize and understand weaker signals, such as wide-scale adoption of cognitive enhancements and the potential of another pandemic within the decade, as well as the more mature trends like market consolidation and delaying retirement.

Methodology

Conducted over the course of three months, this report uses a strategic foresight research method known as horizon scanning. Horizon scanning is a technique for gathering broad, emerging information in order to identify possible changes impacting a topic of study. While there are variations in approaches to horizon scanning, this research involved the study of secondary data points gathered from academic journals, popular media, patents and fringe news sources, and a survey of labour market experts to identify signals of change. This process unearthed more than 600 signals of change, which were then synthesized into eight megatrends and 34 meso trends discussed in this report. 

This report was also informed by a National Expert Panel to strengthen our understanding of mature and emerging trends that could impact the future of Canada’s labour market. Thank you to the 50 participants  from across Canada who contributed their subject matter expertise through surveys and discussions.

Heather Russek
Collaborator, Innovation Design + Futures
Jessica Thornton
Collaborator
Darren Elias
Collaborator
February 10, 2021
Read Report PDFPrint Page

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Mar 30, 2021

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