The Wall Street Journal reports today on the deployment of robotic arms in Foxconn's Chinese factories. The world's leading manufacturer of smartphones and tablets, which works in particular for Apple and Nokia, plans to replace several hundred thousand employees with robots. A costly modernization which has dealt a serious blow to the job market in China.
Based in China, Brazil, and in a handful of Southeast Asian countries, Foxconn manufactures most smartphones and tablets that are sold commercially on behalf of gloves from the industry, from Nokia Apple. The firm is also one of the largest employers in China, where it employs more than a million workers.
Big savings in the long term
In June 2011, Foxconn talked about the automation of its production lines. A very controversial subject in China, the country's economy is linked to the success of these industry gloves which mass produce products for Western markets. According to the Wall Street Journal, the automation plan will begin in the coming days.
Zhang, a Wall Street Journal contact, told the daily that the company had already started replacing and relocating some of its workers from its factory in Shenzhen. Several robotic arms would replace workers in the assembly of motherboards. There were 20 to 30 people assigned to this task before, but after adding the robotic arms, the personnel assigned to this line was reduced to less than five people, explains Zhang.
Foxconn's goal is clear: to remove his sources of trouble. For years, public opinion has rocketed the reputation of the firm, accusing it of employing millions of low-cost people and making them work in deplorable conditions. In the long term, this very large investment could make a lot of money for Foxconn, which is banking on automation to cut costs, at a time when wages are constantly rising in Southeast Asia. Robotic arms also have the ability to operate continuously, unlike employees, who have to rest and experience daily stress.
A blow to the Chinese economy
It is also part of the modernization of the system. In the image of Western countries, China begins to suffer the downside and sees the employment rate decline rapidly. Increasingly high wages and the lack of attractiveness of these jobs are pushing companies to invest in new technologies that replace people. In this case, Foxconn's plan provides for the gradual disappearance of hundreds of thousands of jobs over a period of ten years. Skilled jobs should stay put. It is not surprising that Foxconn plans to open new infrastructure on American soil and recruit qualified staff including many engineers. A one-way ticket that sums up the idea that Barack Obama mentioned a few months ago in the presidential debate: low-skill jobs will not come back.
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