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Automation and reallocation: The lasting legacy of COVID-19 in Canada

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  • Blit, Joel

Abstract

Recent evidence suggests that recessions play a crucial role in promoting automation and the reallocation of productive resources. Consistent with this, I show that in the three previous Canadian recessions, routine jobs were disproportionately lost. COVID-19 is likely to have a similar impact, but bigger because superimposed onto the usual recessionary transformational forces are health-specific incentives to automate. Using O*NET data, I construct an index of COVID-19 health risk and of routine task intensity to measure health incentives to automate and the feasibility of doing so. Across occupations, income groups, industries, and regions, the two indices are strongly negatively correlated, suggesting that automation will not be overly focused and that it may penetrate into hitherto relatively unaffected sectors like health and education. Nevertheless, office and health support workers are likely to be disproportionately affected, as will the retail and hospitality industries. The impacts will also be primarily felt by families toward the bottom of the income distribution and in smaller cities.

Suggested Citation

  • Blit, Joel, 2020. "Automation and reallocation: The lasting legacy of COVID-19 in Canada," CLEF Working Paper Series 31, Canadian Labour Economics Forum (CLEF), University of Waterloo.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:clefwp:31
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    COVID-19; recessions; productivity; innovation; automation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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