Race Alongside the Machines: Occupational digitalization trends in Canada, 2006-2021

Exploring how digitalization has changed the way work is performed across 500 occupations in Canada.
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Ibrahim Abuallail
Innovation Policy Intern
Viet Vu
Manager, Economic Research

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About This Report

Machines are here to stay, and there’s no turning back. But technology doesn’t have to be a force that “happens” to us. When implemented in a way that centres workers and their efforts, coupled with skills training investment, technology and automation can augment and complement workers, not replace them.

Jobs that once required little to no digital skills are increasingly requiring workers to adopt them into their day-to-day work tasks. Production outputs, resource needs, and labour patterns are perpetually changing, and these changes require new thinking on how we prepare Canadians for the future of work.  

Race Alongside the Machines: Occupational digitalization trends in Canada, 2006-2021, offers a comprehensive look into how technology has impacted jobs and workers in the last 15 years. This information is designed to serve as a tool to understand the projected impact of technology on worker outcomes in Canada to ensure that we get the best and avoid the worst of technology-driven innovation.

Read this report to help you:

  • Inform policy decisions and strategies related to digital technology adoption and digital skill development in the workplace.
  • Create better skills training policies through a comprehensive understanding of which jobs in Canada have changed the most and the least from digitalization. 
  • Identify the projected impact of technology adoption on jobs + workers in specific occupations by understanding how digital technology has impacted tech work in the past 15 years. 
  • Proactively plan how technology will affect how work is performed so that it can be optimally harnessed for better outcomes.

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Key findings from this report:

  • In the last 15 years, occupations associated with routine work saw the highest rates of digitalization. Jobs with the highest rates of digitalization were those that managed data, i.e., property managers, health information management, railway conductors, and scheduling coordinators. 


  • In the last five years, however, jobs most associated with non-routine work are the top movers in digitalization. The top occupations identified were photographic and film processors, physicians, and engineering inspectors.


  • Digital technologies assist workers with carrying out work requiring a high level of reasoning and analytical skills. Workers who used technology to perform routine tasks saw more independence and autonomy in how they carried out their work, leaving them to focus on tasks that required more analytical thinking and higher reasoning.


  • The fishing and agriculture sectors stand out as laggards in digital adoption. Fishing and agricultural sector occupations had the lowest rates of digitalization, likely due to a wave of technological advancement that already happened in the 1990s, followed by stagnated progress since then. These sectors will need to adopt IoT and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) to prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and become more sustainable. 


  • Pilots and translators were leading occupations for digital adoption between 2006 to 2016. During the 2016 to 2021 period, however, their pace of digitalization fell so significantly that compared to other occupations across the total (15 year) period examined, they present as digital adoption laggards.


  • Digital skills in highest demand are constantly changing over the years, which has implications for worker training and risks of hyper-specialization. Malleability, critical thinking, and general knowledge across skills are vital to ensuring workers can adapt to the jobs of tomorrow.


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.

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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.
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