Foxconn Is Automating: What Will Be the Fate of Its Chinese Workers?

2:54 pm
4 Brooke Stevens
The iPhone manufacturer is to replace most its of Chinese workforce with robots – which could benefit the company but destroy its employees

The strength of robots is that they know what to do with no human hand involved. Taiwanese multinational electronics manufacturer, Foxconn Electronics, is ready to take advantage of that. The company, which has 12 of its factories based in China, has set in motion its plan to replace the better part of its Chinese workforce with robots. According to reports, the manufacturer of Apple’s iPhone and iPad has a 3-stage plan for a near-full automation all of its factories. The robots, which Foxconn have already started to use, are manufactured by the company itself and are called Foxbots.

Foxconn’s general manager, Dai Jia-peng, said that the first stage will be assigning robots to tasks that are either too risky for humans to do, or ones that workers are simply not too fond of. The second stage will include automation of entire production lines in order to use the smallest number of robots possible. The third and final stage would see the full automation of entire factories, other than a minimum number of indispensable human workers.

According to Jia-peng, the electronics giant has the ability to build 10,000 Foxbots a year. The company has declared in March that its robots have already replaced 60,000 of its employees, and counting. These may sound like imaginary numbers, but judging by Foxconn’s moves – the future is already here, and not a lot of flesh and blood are involved in it.

Foxconn

What does this mean for Foxconn’s future?

In the short-term, automation will most likely result in extremely high expenses. Other than the manufacturing process of Foxbots, the company will have further expenses in order to train its robots to perform different tasks. However, in the long-term, automation actually seems to be the cheaper, more lucrative alternative – which is probably why Foxconn is going for it.

What does this mean for Chinese workforce?

Unfortunately for more than a million Chinese employed by Foxconn, the recently-announced automation plan is far from good news. Replacing the majority of the company’s workforce with robots may have a long-term positive effect on its future financial success, but for numerous to-be-unemployed workers it would be nothing but disastrous.

Luckily for Foxconn’s workers, the Chinese government seems to be on their side. Since the local government has a policy of incentivizing human employment, it has given the company billions of dollars exactly for this purpose. Odds are, if the iPhone manufacturer decides to go with its plan and eventually let go such a large portion of its employees – there will be a price. This raises a lot of questions regarding the benefits of automation versus the heavy costs it bares upon simple workers.

Foxconn
Photo by: qz.com