The floods and tornado that hit Ottawa this past spring have cost the city $5.6 million and counting in damages (Chianello, 2019). Similar instances of climate change have devastated communities across Canada and will continue to do so as the climate crisis accelerates. In fact, the Insurance Bureau of Canada reported that the cost of insured damage due to severe weather was $1.8-billion last year, with other recent years as high as $4.9 billion (Scoffield, 2019). There is an urgent need for Canadians to anticipate and prepare for the shocks and stresses of a future affected by the changing climate – and to consider what can be done to mitigate the current course.
To help Canadians prepare for this future, and more specifically their future employment, the Brookfield Institute’s report Turn and Face the Strange identifies 31 trends with the potential to affect the labour market in the next 10-15 years (Thornton, Russek & O’Neil, 2019). This report is part of the Institute’s ongoing initiative, Employment in 2030, a national research project to develop a holistic forecast of in-demand skills, and the distribution of these skills across geographies, industries and demographic groups.
While Turn and Face the Strange is not a prediction of the future or a deep analysis of any one trend, it aims to spark exploratory and imaginative thinking and push readers to ask themselves “what if?” What if Canada sees a rise in wildfires, floods and mudslides? What if cases of mental-health issues associated with technology use continue to multiply? What if artificial intelligence (AI) becomes capable of performing creative tasks?
The trends highlighted in the report were identified using a strategic foresight methodology called horizon scanning – a technique for gathering broad, emerging information in order to identify possible changes affecting a topic of study. We scanned academic journals, popular media and fringe news sources, unearthing more than 600 signals of change, which we synthesized into 31 trends that have the potential to affect the future of employment.
While many of us are well aware that technological change will continue to affect labour markets, it is also important to consider how broader environmental, social and political developments play a role. Environmental sustainability, in particular, is an area that we can no longer afford to ignore. To this end, we were able to identify four trends related to the environment that may have an impact on the future of work in Canada. As you read through each below, consider how these trends may affect your future job prospects or those of your clients.
As the climate crisis worsens, natural resources like clean air, water and sand could become scarce and therefore extremely valuable. According to the World Wildlife Fund (n.d.), by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. Resource scarcity across Canada and globally will affect industries that rely heavily on natural resources, such as energy, forestry and mining. Water-reliant sectors such as agriculture, food processing and manufacturing could struggle to maintain access to these resources. How will these industries develop new practices to conserve resources like paper and water? How will our policies and infrastructure change to adapt to water scarcity and air pollution? Will new, energy-efficient industries grow or develop in response to resource scarcity? How will we alter our habits to consume less?