I went to see a movie a few weeks ago, and I was shocked at what I saw when waiting to purchase my tickets — a long row of automated machines and a single employee. The employee was there to deal with cash purchases only. Everyone else was encouraged to use their credit or debit cards at one of these computers to buy their movie tickets.

It’s not just Cineplex. Shoppers drug mart now has a series of machines for self-checkouts (Debit/credit only) and you can order fast food at Macdonalds using a fancy touchscreen.

Metro, the grocery chain, announced earlier this week they will be testing scan-and-go technology so they can increase the number of self-checkout machines in their stores. The reason? To offset the higher minimum wages in Ontario and Quebec.

Metro already has self-scanning checkouts in 30 stores across Ontario, and plans to add more by the end of the summer, including a few at the Food Basics discount store.  After the pilot, more machines will be added, assuming it is successful.

Automation may be the way of the future, but it will have a drastic impact on the younger generation, most of whom get their first jobs at places like Cineplex, Shoppers, and Metro. If those jobs disappear, where will these young people go to make an income? Where will they gain valuable work experience?

A study written by the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that by 2030, as many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide to automation, particularly in middle and low-skill occupations. This will create a two-tiered labour market, according to the report, in which “stepping stone jobs” are eliminated while high-paying creative jobs are not.

“New jobs will be available, based on our scenarios of future labor demand and the net impact of automation,” the report reads. However, people will need to find their way into these jobs. Of the total displaced, 75 million to 375 million may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills.”

At the same time, the report says that worries about future jobs are unfounded, as the labour market will adjust over time. The benefits of automation, which were outlined in a previous report by McKinsey, such as an increase in productivity and efficiency, will outweigh the dangers. “Automation of activities can enable businesses to improve performance, by reducing errors and improving quality and speed, and in some cases achieving outcomes that go beyond human capabilities.” In the United States alone, automation will equal savings of approximately $2.7 trillion in wages.

The key in these findings is that change occurs slowly over time. Replacing minimum wage workers with automated machines the year the minimum wage increases, is moving rather quickly. Other jobs need to open up for younger people before their traditional positions are eliminated. The unemployment rate in Canada may be relatively low at the moment at 5.7 per cent, but for youth, that number is 10.3 per cent. That number is going to increase unless companies make room for young people, despite their move to automation.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Author

Katherine DeClerq is the editor of Women's Post. Her previous writing experience includes the Toronto Star, Maclean's Magazine, CTVNews, and BlogTO. She can often be found at a coffee shop with her MacBook computer. Despite what CP says, she is a fan of the Oxford comma.

1 Comment

  1. If there are majority jobless, who can actually buy the products and services that are automated? It makes no sense. What makes more sense is that automation will grow at a similar rate to the increase in joblessness due to the automation. Ultimately, if all this means a human society with capacity for less population, what is wrong with that? Babies are born, people die. Populations adapt to circumstances. Why should priority be given to keep everyone employed, with education, with house, with car and with 2.5 children. That kind of language is similar to nimrods who cry “But what about the workers!” when someone suggest stopping product when “there’s only one tree left standing!”. Similar kinds of short-term people-first language is used by those arguing against something like veganism. Big pot of irony and tangled webs, isn’t it?

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