The G7 Youth Summit, hosted by the Young Ambassadors Society (YAS) from May 9 - 11th in Rome, Italy, was focused on harnessing innovation to ensure inclusive, open and sustainable growth. As a notably innovation friendly country (“innovation” was mentioned 262 times in the 2017 Federal Budget) the Canadian delegation of the Y7 was a leader in sharing current concepts and best practices for encouraging and supporting innovation ecosystems.
The Final Communiqué was divided into three areas: Production Innovation, Knowledge-Based Capital and Enabling Infrastructure and the Future of Work and of Welfare Systems.
Enabling a data economy while ensuring the protection and empowerment of individuals
Recommendations were centred around protecting data (cybersecurity), and promoting privacy while working towards developing greater open data infrastructure to facilitate greater data sharing to help advance key sectors. Each day, more and more data is being generated. As a result, opportunities to harness data through tools like machine learning (artificial intelligence) to improve social goods like health care and transportation become closer to reality. In this pursuit, it will be essential to safeguard the individual right to privacy. The Y7 recognized this and recommended an international agreement to individual rights enshrined in the General Data Protection Regulation be discussed in September 2017 at the meeting of the Ministers of Industry.
Achieving sustainable growth in accordance with the Paris Agreement was another focus. Recommendations included increasing fiscal incentives and public financing in technologies that promote renewable energy and a circular economy, as well as supporting developing countries in building technological capabilities locally through sharing environmental technologies. This is aligned with the G7 2017 focus on the continent of Africa as full of opportunity.
Fostering and supporting startup ecosystems and reducing barriers to innovation through encouraging investment and promoting the creation of supporting organizations (such as accelerators and angel networks) was the final focus. Creating an end-to-end digital process for registering and closing new business, as exists in Canada, was highlighted.
Knowledge-Based Capital and Enabling Infrastructures
The growing impact and advances in technology are quickly outpacing education systems across G7 countries. To approach and address these challenges, the Y7 recognized the necessity of: Investing in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Literacy, Promoting emotional intelligence alongside the standard intelligence quotient and Investing in furthering adaptability of current and future generations.
Recommendations included computer science, community projects and work experience as mandatory in national curricula, universities providing STEM training opportunities for the broader public, and funding retraining programmes for workers in declining industries, impacted by the Next Production Revolution.
It is important to note the inclusion of ‘developing technological infrastructure for indigenous communities” in the Final Communiqué, as raising awareness and promoting Indigenous communities this was a core objective of the Canadian Y7 delegation.
Future of Work and of Welfare Systems
It is essential for the G7 countries to consider policies to promote inclusive growth as the Next Production Revolution impacts the everyday lives of their populations. The Y7 focused on tackling inequalities by promoting equal access to employment opportunities, championing institutions with diversity in their leadership and expanding the one year working holiday program for youth 18-35 between G7 countries and beyond.
Reform of the welfare state to address rising unemployment, the growing platform economy, increased labour mobility and automation was highlighted. Recommendations include creating employment standards and protections for contract, part-time, and virtual marketplace workers, while allowing individuals to pursue retraining opportunities while receiving unemployment benefits. Another clause urged support for healthy workplaces by increasing access to mental health services. The final recommendation embraced an active labour policy that increases the training of skills and alternative employment opportunities for all unemployed workers, including those displaced by the next production revolution.
Innovative taxation reform was an additional focus of the Y7 recommendations, recognising the changing landscape of work and increased strain on social benefits programs as a result of an aging population. A temporary robotic adjustment tax to fund social benefit programs as well as a new taxation model in accordance with the 2013 European Commission proposal on financial transaction tax were proposed, namely a 0.1 percent levy on the values of financial transactions and 0.01 percent on derivatives. The purpose of this tax is two-fold - obtain much-needed revenue as the population of industrialized countries is aging, while promoting market stability.
Policy Priorities & Recommendations for Canada
The increasing reliance on contract, part time work, and virtual marketplaces as a source of income (particularly for youth) will require federal and provincial governments to adjust the Federal Employment Insurance (EI) benefit eligibility guidelines to cope with short term work and increasing job insecurity. However, addressing this challenge early on also provides Canada an opportunity to become a world leader in innovation by quickly adjusting to the demands of the market. To accomplish this, we recommend the following:
● Allow individuals to pursue retraining opportunities while continuing to receive EI without fear of losing their benefits - this is to promote adaptability of and well-being of workers.
● Offer EI benefits at a relatively high rate, up to 90% for the lowest paid workers
● Institute an active labour policy that increases training of skills, career guidance, alternative employment, or retraining to all unemployed, modeled after Denmark’s ‘flexicurity model’.
● Invest in forecasting of industry and labour market trends to anticipate new skills requirements and identify upcoming skill shortages. This data will be to quickly adjust to the demands of the market and properly support skills training/retraining to disrupted Canadians.
● Eliminate the one-week Federal EI waiting period for contract workers and update the EI benefits webpage - the current design is overcomplicated and is a barrier for marginalized groups with low computer literacy.
In Canada, visible minorities, indigenous peoples, and women face discrimination when seeking work. As a result, we recommend policy incentives to tackle inequalities by promoting blind application processes and to recognize those in the private sector with diversity in their leadership.
Canada has an increasingly ageing population, placing a greater strain on social benefits programs, pension schemes, and health care costs among others. As a result, we recommend innovating taxation schemes to adjust to these changes by:
● Taking actions against tax evasion by companies and individuals by requiring greater transparency of tax planning arrangements and increasing the frequency of tax audits
● Introducing a 0.1 percent levy on the values of financial transactions and 0.01 percent on derivatives. This will generate much-needed revenue while decreasing speculation in the financial sector and henceforth increasing stability. We recommend developing a joint strategy with other G7 counterparts as proposed at the 2011 G20 Summit.
In order to maintain Canada’s competitiveness, and to promote inclusive and accessible for all educational models, particularly for women, minorities, and indigenous peoples - we recommend the following:
● Promoting STEM literacy
○ In alignment with the $50 million to support initiatives of developing digital skills of students, we recommend that the Federal government work with the Provinces to establish computer science and programming as part of their curricula.
○ To further the $221 million pledged in Budget 2017 by the Federal Government to provide relevant STEM working experience to students, instigate a graduation requirement of work experience (industry agnostic) for secondary students.
● Prioritize soft skills and enhance personalized education
● We urge investment to increase collaboration between Indigenous communities and other communities across Canada to stimulate innovation, address gaps in infrastructure and digital literacy. We applaud the CRTC’s announcement to allocate $750 million for broadband access Internet service as a basic telecommunications service.
Canada stands to benefit from the next production revolution by supporting the data economy. At the same time, we urge the government to consider the need to empower individuals, advance sustainable growth, and promote a dynamic and inter-connected start-up ecosystem by:
● Encouraging the development of open data infrastructures and database standards in key sectors, such as energy, environment, health, and transportation. At the same time, enhance business transparency through the disclosure of how personal data is shared.
● Accelerate the development of artificial intelligence and include ethical considerations of artificial intelligence’ datasets.
○ Given Canada’s leadership in advancing Artificial Intelligence (specifically through research hubs in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton) we have the opportunity to be global leaders in developing guidelines for ‘AI Safety’. To further the $125M investment into the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, we recommend collaboration of government policy makers and leaders of the respective nationalinstitutes (MILA, Vector, amii) with corresponding international groups.
Sustainability is a key pillar of the G7 Youth Summit recommendations, we recommend that the Canadian government continue its commitment to the Paris 2016 agreement via:
● Increasing fiscal incentives and public financing for technologies and business models that promote renewable, clean energy, public transportation and a circular economy.
● Supporting developing countries in building their own capabilities, tapping into local talent and supporting local entrepreneurs through the sharing of environmental technologies.
Innovation stems from ideas that are often times not part of the current paradigm, as a result we recommend facilitating dynamic start-up ecosystems to reduce barriers to innovation via:
● Encouraging public and private sector investment in start-ups, particularly those addressing sustainability issues via start-up loans, tax incentives, innovation grants and incubators or other accelerators in collaboration with other G7 countries.
● Continuing Health Canada’s agenda to develop regulatory systems to respond quickly to emerging technologies in the healthcare sector. We recognize the need to formulate effective oversight of products resulting from emerging technologies.
● Urging the Federal government to work with the Provinces to develop Preventative Healthcare strategies, and look to adopt and implement technological advances (such as machine learning) dynamically. This would improve quality of life and potentially reduce healthcare costs in the long term for chronic illnesses.
Risk mitigation policies are a key part of our recommendations. Ranging from preventative healthcare, to taxation schemes that promote market stability, to developing forecasting models for upcoming skill shortages - we believe in evidence-based research as a driver for policy making.
The Canadian G7 Youth (Y7) delegation would be pleased to discuss these recommendations in further detail with members of all levels of government, the private sector, and advocacy organizations. The challenges our generation face are unprecedented, but with challenges comes opportunity, and following the Y7 summit we are more hopeful than ever that the solutions to our common challenges are within easy reach.
What we need now is political will, and a commitment to work together.