World

Robot revolution at Foxconn

60,000 workers replaced by machines in its China factories

It is the world's largest electronic manufacturing company and it makes components for global firms such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft.

Foxconn, which has its headquarters in Taiwan and has 12 factories in nine Chinese cities, has slashed 60,000 people from its workforce of about more than a million.

They have replaced those employees with robots, BBC reported.

One factory has "reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots", a government official told Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.

Mr Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region, in China's greater Suzhou region, said that more companies are likely to follow suit.

This does not bode well for Kunshan's 2.5 million residents, most of whom are migrant workers who moved to the city to take up jobs in its many electronics factories, The Independent reported.

Although the number of workers displaced by robots is huge, Foxconn denied that the change will result in long-term job losses.

The company said that the robots allow human workers to spend more time focusing on "higher value-added elements in the manufacturing process" like research and development, and quality control.

The company said: "We will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China."

Since September 2014, more than 500 factories across Dongguan, in Guangdong province, have invested more than four billion yuan (S$870 million) in robots, aiming to replace thousands of workers.

Economists have issued dire warnings about how automation will affect the job market, with one report, from consultants Deloitte in partnership with Oxford University, suggesting that 35 per cent of jobs were at risk over the next 20 years.

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