B.C. tech sector urges massive rethink of provincial economy

Tech sector urges big rethink

Lumber, mining, fishing.

Ask someone on the street about B.C.’s traditional economy and at least one of those sectors is bound to come up.

But the B.C. tech sector is calling for a major rethink of how the economy is measured moving forward if the province means to stay competitive, according to a report released Monday.

Rather than focusing on tangible goods — an ever-decreasing component of the economy, according to data in the report — the BC Tech Association is urging the provincial and federal governments to adopt three priorities when embracing the shift to more intangible assets within the economy:

1) Improving collection of data to better identify economic drivers

2) Embracing tech and innovation as a critical driver of the economy

3) Increasing access to skills training and investments in the infrastructure of the service-based economy

The report points to how GDP has been used as the traditional means of measuring the economy — that is, via the tangible exchange of goods and resources.

“B.C. cannot afford to allow 20th century economic thinking to guide 21st century decisions,” the report states.

Citing data from Statistics Canada, the authors point to the fact that in 2019 more than 76% of the province’s GDP came from services while the goods-producing sectors accounted for the remainder.

“The tech sector is difficult to properly quantify as its activity is included in multiple categories,” the report states, referring to the buckets in which StatsCan divides the economy such as finance and insurance; information and cultural services; and educational services.

“However, we can assume that tech sector growth explains in large part the growth in professional, scientific and technical services, which has grown from about 5.5% of GDP to almost 7% in the last 10 years.”

The report in turn notes declines in buckets such as manufacturing; agriculture, fishing, forestry and hunting; and mining, quarrying, and oil and gas.

Again, citing StatsCan data, the report points to how over the last two decades service-producing sectors have averaged around 80% of the jobs in the economy, while goods-producing sectors have averaged about 20%.

"Other jurisdictions around the world are recognizing the fundamental shifts taking place and are making changes to remain economically competitive. As we emerge from COVID and start to think about economic recovery, we need to make an honest assessment of where our sustainable strengths lie and how we can build a more inclusive, innovative and resilient economy in B.C.," BC Tech CEO Jill Tipping said in a statement.

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