The impact of COVID-19 on tech employment in Canada

The global pandemic has impacted and challenged labor markets worldwide. In March and April 2020, over 3 million Canadians lost their jobs. However, over 2.5 million jobs were added before the second wave began in December. According to the Bank of Canada report on Canadian job postings in digital sectors during COVID-19, economic activity was intertwined with the use and development of digital technologies. The report found that recruiting efforts for digital technology production sectors, like hardware, software, and information technology support, intensified as the pandemic spread. 

On the other hand, recruiting in sectors that excessively use technology, like education, retail, and eCommerce, has substantially dropped. This indicates that technology might replace humans in such sectors. This report discusses the acceleration of digitalization facilitated by the global pandemic, which has caused dramatic shifts in labor markets. 

The pandemic has presented the tech industry with a unique set of opportunities. With the transition of people’s everyday lives to online platforms and applications, tech workers are becoming crucial to the success of any industry. Consequently, job openings for positions like cybersecurity engineer, systems engineer, and web developer have increased by double digits. As the impact of the pandemic reshapes industries and how they function, technology will only grow in importance. 

According to the Brookfield Institute research, tech jobs were more resilient to the impact of the pandemic. The initial shock decreased tech employment by 4.2 per cent, and they recovered to their pre-pandemic levels by May 2020, even though employment levels for the overall economy were 13.2 per cent below those of February. This was primarily because of the easier and more feasible transition to remote work and increased demand for online services. 

Net Tech Employment in Canada 

The net tech employment in Canada increased by 8.9 per cent to reach 1,235,692 workers in 2021. Net tech employment represents two components – technology professionals working in different tech positions, and business professionals employed by technology companies. The top provinces for net tech employment were Ontario and Quebec. The net tech employment in Toronto in 2021 was 367,462 and grew by around 7.8 per cent between 2020 and 2021. 

Systems analysts and cybersecurity roles increased by 3 per cent in 2022, software engineers and web development jobs increased by 1.9 per cent,  IT support and network technicians increased by 0.6 per cent, and CIOs, IT managers, and IT project management roles increased by 2.8 per cent. 

In Toronto, database, data analysis, and data science jobs increased by 2.7 per cent. The average tech wage was also 45 per cent higher than the median wage. To date, Toronto has the highest concentration of net tech employment in Canada, with 10 per cent. 

Demand for Upskilling 

Given the precarious labor market, demand for skilled workers is increasing, and companies are embracing various growth and upskilling strategies to keep in line with the competition. Big companies plan to fiercely reskill and upskill their employees, while cutting down their less skilled workers. 

A recent PwC study found that 50 per cent of executives from leading companies are already planning to make job cuts. This means workers without the capabilities to compete in a high-skill market can be overlooked by management, even when it’s the management’s responsibility to engage and reskill them. Businesses need to play a more proactive role in upskilling; otherwise, it will lead to polarization of workers: those who have the skills and those who haven’t. 

There’s a strong need to scale tech, governance, leadership, and resilience skills to navigate the changing realities. With the pandemic pushing everything towards digitalization, tech skills are in high demand in Canada and worldwide. People with highly valued skills have greater job satisfaction and are more likely to ask for a promotion than their colleagues who don’t possess those skills. As such, large companies are heavily investing in upskilling their talented employees with a host of institutional knowledge. 

The importance of reskilling and upskilling in tech employment is to maintain a competitive advantage and keep workers engaged. Educational programs and certifications are committed to industry growth and upskilling, and give early-career professionals the ability to kickstart their progress. 


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