What Toronto’s workforce will be like in 50 years

What Toronto’s workforce will be like in 50 years

In partnership with the Martin Prosperity Institute, we bring you a semi-scientific glimpse into the future of Toronto. Here, how robots (and other things) will change the city’s job market

The average income will be $56,000

Current Average: $40,000
It doesn’t look like a lot of money, but it’s 25 per cent more than we’re making now. That’s major growth, especially when we look back and consider that the average income has only increased 15 per cent in the past 40 years. The bad news: the gap between the average earner and the one per cent will continue to widen. Right now, the income threshold to get into the one per cent is $220,000. In 50 years, it will more than double to $490,721—that’s nearly 13 times the average income.

34% of Torontonians won’t have steady jobs

Current Rate: 12%
For all its convenience and shiny allure, technology will decimate the workforce, allowing employers to cheaply automate and outsource jobs across the world. Currently, only about 12 per cent of Toronto workers are in precarious jobs. In the future, that number will triple, ghettoizing workers into insecure part-time service jobs, Uber-style on-demand gigs and temporary contracts—even in white-collar industries like finance and information science.

Illustration by Carl Wiens/i2i Art Inc.
42% of jobs will be taken over by robots

Here are the workers on the verge of obsolescence:

Truck Drivers
Nearly 300,000 Canadians make their living driving trucks. And over the next 20 years, those workers are at a 79 per cent risk of being replaced with self-driving semis, which will be able to travel 20 hours a day and could reduce operating costs by 40 per cent.

To some extent, automation has already obliterated many retail jobs in the form of online shopping and automated ticketing. These jobs will become scarcer in the coming decades: Canada’s 700,000 retail workers will be replaced by self-serve kiosks—McDonald’s, Loblaws and Canadian Tire already them have in place.

Factory Workers
Over the past 10 years, more than 300,000 Canadian manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation and outsourcing. A recent report suggests that industrial robots—the kind able to operate machinery, wield heavy loads and apply packaging—could reduce costs by 22 per cent.

Administrative Support
The closest thing we have to C-3PO is the “social robot”—an anthropomorphic personal aide that can replace human assistants by tracking appointments, filing paperwork, communicating with clients and running errands. In Canada, admin workers are at a 96 per cent risk of being replaced by a friendly droid.

Finance Professionals
As accounting software becomes more sophisticated, computers will be able to file your taxes, provide credit analysis and underwrite users’ assets. The demand for personal accountants will plummet, eliminating most of those jobs over the next few decades.

Women will out-earn men by 29%

Justin Trudeau can finally relax: over the next 50 years, the gender pay gap won’t just close—it will flip on its head. Judging by current trends, the average Torontonian woman will earn $1.29 for every dollar her male counterpart makes (and double what she’s making now). We’re already seeing it happen: women represent 58 per cent of post-secondary graduates, and 59 per cent of students in science and technology programs. Ontario, meanwhile, is working hard to seal the chasm as quickly as possible, moving to provide more child care to professional women and increase salary transparency across all sectors.

Workers will specialize in nanotech, robots and 3-d printing

We asked five bright-eyed University of Toronto students about their futuristic career paths:

Mengxia Liu Photograph by Daniel Neuhaus
The nano specialist

Mengxia Liu, 24
PhD in electrical and computer engineering

“I’m working with quantum dot solar cells, so they can convert more of the sun’s energy into electricity. They could be a cheap and clean energy source and replace fuel cells in cars. In the future, I’d love to collaborate with companies to push nano technology into products.”

Maryam Merrikhpour Photograph by Daniel Neuhaus
The car czar

Maryam Merrikhpour, 29
PhD in mechanical and industrial engineering

“Right now, I’m working on in-vehicle safety systems for distracted drivers. Down the road, I’d be interested in developing systems in driverless vehicles that monitor how the cars communicate with the people occupying them, and with pedestrians and other vehicles.”

Christopher Gray Photograph by Daniel Neuhaus
The genetic guru

Christopher Gray, 24
MSc in genetic counselling

“In the future, diagnostic testing and equipment will allow us to use genetic prediction to identify more diseases. My role will be to provide psychological and medical counselling to families trying to process this new information.”

Christina Moro Photograph by Daniel Neuhaus
The robot designer

Christina Moro, 24
MASc in mechanical and industrial engineering

“I’m developing robots devoted to assisting elderly people in-home. Our robots are non-contact: they don’t cook for people, but they keep them mentally active through tasks and prompts. After I graduate, I might go into space robotics or make commercial robots.”

Daniel Southwick Photograph by Daniel Neuhaus
The 3-d wizard

Daniel Southwick, 30
PhD in information science

“I look at the production of prosthetics using 3-D printing software. In theory, a computer should be able to scan a limb and develop the perfect prosthesis with the correct socket. But it’s never that simple. I’m creating systems that help determine what role human judgment must play in those situations.”

All projected figures are in 2016 dollars.

Created in partnership with the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

More of Toronto of Tomorrow


October 28, 2016

This article originally misstated Christina Moro's academic credentials. She is an MASc student in mechanical and industrial engineering, not an MSc student in applied science and engineering.