History has seen several industrial revolutions that have each dramatically changed the labour market, as means of production and levels of productivity have continually evolved with the introduction of new technologies. Today, new technologies are converging to make for even faster progress and more disruptive changes to the nature of work. Automation will change the kinds of jobs needed in the future, while digital technologies and societal preferences will change how and where we work. Thus, not only is the definition of ‘workforce’ changing, but the scope and focus of what a human resource department does may be shifting from being ‘workforce focused’ to ‘human capital focused’.

Effects of automation

The increasing automation of industry is already a very observable and well-studied trend. With advances in ‘Artificial intelligence‘, ‘Smart manufacturing’, and ‘Robotics’, the ability of machines to perform tasks more effectively than people is steadily increasing. This will have enormous consequences for the global employment landscape, with some studies predicting that, at the global level, ‘automation could eliminate 9% of existing jobs and radically change approximately one-third in the next 15 to 20 years”.[1] What sets this industrial transformation apart from those that came before it is the speed at which it is occurring. This ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, as it is often known, is happening so rapidly that careful governance will be required in order to maximize its potential benefits.

While many studies focus on the potential job losses that could result from automation, it is important to keep in mind that, at least in the longer term, automation will also result in significant job creation. It will create new kinds of jobs, removing the need for humans to do unsafe, boring, and repetitive tasks, while increasing productivity and giving workers more flexibility and leisure time than in the past.[2,3] These new jobs will likely require higher-level technical skills and more social and/or creative skills than the jobs that will disappear.[4]

Of course, the ability of individual countries to benefit from automation varies significantly depending on several factors:

  • Demographics: Countries with ageing populations will likely promote faster adoption of automation to replace and augment their ageing workforces, especially in sectors such as health, aged care, mining, and agriculture.[1,5] Automation in countries with younger populations and a growing workforce could, on the one hand, have more disruptive effects and potentially exert a downward pressure on wages. On the other hand, these countries could also be more agile in responding to changes brought about by automation, as long as they can provide the required education to train new workers.[1]
  • Level of industrialization: There is some concern that automation could disadvantage developing countries, as these countries tend to have a high number of jobs in manufacturing. What’s more, a lot of manufacturing could be ‘re-shored’ back to developed countries by using robots, which would decrease opportunities for developing countries to grow their economies through export-led manufacturing.[2] But advanced economies will not be unchallenged either – they may see revenue shortages as the number of workers paying tax decreases, and they may be more susceptible to societal upheaval as segments of their populations who are used to experiencing a steady growth in living standards become more disadvantaged.[6]
  • Education systems: The skills present in a country’s workforce plus its ability to provide access to continuing education will strongly influence how well it can adapt to increased automation. In countries where women tend to have lower education levels and fewer technical skills than men, their jobs may be at greater risk from automation, and this may lead to women being disproportionately excluded from the workforce.[2] Therefore policymakers will need to ensure that sufficient retraining and upskilling initiatives are put in place to make the transition as smooth as possible, in particular for low and medium-skilled workers and (in some cases) women.[7]

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ISO/TC 184
Automation systems and integration
  • Publicados 900 Normas | En desarrollo 142 Proyectos
  • ISO/TR 23087:2018
    Automation systems and integration — The Big Picture of standards
  • ISO/CD TR 24464 [En desarrollo]
    Automation systems and integration — Industrial data — Visualization elements of digital twin - Visualization fidelity
Comité Técnico
ISO/TC 232
Education and learning services
  • Publicados 9 Normas | En desarrollo 3 Proyectos
  • ISO 29994:2021
    Education and learning services — Requirements for distance learning
  • ISO/TR 29996:2024
    Education and learning services — Distance and digital learning services (DDLS) — Case studies
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ISO/TC 299
  • Publicados 32 Normas | En desarrollo 6 Proyectos
  • ISO 5363:2024
    Robotics — Test methods for exoskeleton-type walking RACA robot
  • ISO/PAS 5672:2023
    Robotics — Collaborative applications — Test methods for measuring forces and pressures in human-robot contacts
  • ISO/CD 13482 [En desarrollo]
    Robotics — Safety requirements for service robots
  • ISO/TS 15066:2016
    Robots and robotic devices — Collaborative robots
  • ISO 18646-2:2024
    Robotics — Performance criteria and related test methods for service robots
    Part 2: Navigation
  • ISO/CD 18646-5 [En desarrollo]
    Robotics — Performance criteria and related test methods for service robots
    Part 5: Locomotion for legged robots
  • ISO/CD 21423 [En desarrollo]
    Robotics — Autonomous mobile robots for industrial environments — Communications and interoperability
  • ISO 22166-201:2024
    Robotics — Modularity for service robots
    Part 201: Common information model for modules
  • ISO/DIS 22166-202 [En desarrollo]
    Robotics — Modularity for service robots
    Part 202: Information model for software modules
  • ISO 31101:2023
    Robotics — Application services provided by service robots — Safety management systems requirements

Reinventing the workplace

While automation is changing the kind of jobs that dominate the employment landscape, other new technologies and societal pressures are transforming workplace culture and how we work. Digital technology is allowing more people to work remotely and with much more flexible schedules. This trend did not begin with the COVID-19 pandemic but has certainly been accelerated by it – the pandemic led to a dramatic increase in the number of people working remotely and in the use of videoconferencing and virtual meetings, alongside a large decrease in business travel and the use of physical office space.[8] Surveys show that these trends align with the preferences of the great majority of millennials (92% want to work remotely and 87% want to work according to their own schedule[9]) and allow people to better balance their work and home lives. However, there are also potential negatives – some workers may suffer increased stress levels due to being continually connected to work[6], while others may become disengaged and less productive, as they lose their physical connection to co-workers and a dedicated workspace.[10] Organizations are therefore facing the double challenge of investing in the necessary technologies to enable a hybrid or remote work environment in order to attract and retain the best talent, while also developing strategies to combat increased employee stress or fragmentation and disengagement of their workforce.

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    Ergonomics of human-system interaction
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    Ergonomics of human-system interaction
    Part 221: Human-centred design process assessment model
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    Ergonomics of human-system interaction
    Part 820: Ergonomic guidance on interactions in immersive environments, including augmented reality and virtual reality
  • ISO/AWI 30441 [En desarrollo]
    Workplace Wellness — Creation and promotion of practices to improve wellbeing and effectiveness
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ISO/TC 283
Occupational health and safety management
  • Publicados 7 Normas | En desarrollo 5 Proyectos
ISO 45003:2021
Occupational health and safety management — Psychological health and safety at work — Guidelines for managing psychosocial risks
ISO/PAS 45005:2020
Occupational health and safety management — General guidelines for safe working during the COVID-19 pandemic
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ISO/TC 292
Security and resilience
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ISO/TS 22330:2018
Security and resilience — Business continuity management systems — Guidelines for people aspects of business continuity


  1. Global trends 2040. A more contested world (US National Intelligence Council, 2021)
  2. Digital economy report 2019. Value creation and capture: implications for developing countries (UN Conference on Trade and Development, 2019)
  3. Digital megatrends. A perspective on the coming decade of digital disruption (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, 2019)
  4. Future outlook. 100 Global trends for 2050 (UAE Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, 2017)
  5. Asia pacific megatrends 2040 (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, 2019)
  6. Global strategic trends. The future starts today (UK Ministry of Defence , 2018)
  7. Global connectivity outlook to 2030 (World Bank, 2019)
  8. The future of work after COVID 19 (McKinsey Global Institute, 2021)
  9. AGCS trend compass (Allianz, 2019)
  10. Beyond the noise. The megatrends of tomorrow's world (Deloitte, 2017)