We see constant news reports these days of layoffs in technology, banks, the media and other industry sectors. The reasons are varied but commonly relate to taking drastic action to restructure and, in some cases, even survive as going concerns.
The events are global and the numbers are often astounding, with such disruptions sometimes directly affecting tens of thousands of people and indirectly many others as those out-of-work are launched into the seeking-work market.
The human and social costs are always considerable.
But we’ve seen nothing yet compared to what’s clearly coming, certainly in Asia, if what Xinhuanet reports is a credible indicator:
Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn will replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency, said Terry Gou, founder and chairman of the company, late Friday [July 29].
The robots will be used to do simple and routine work such as spraying, welding and assembling which are now mainly conducted by workers, said Gou at a workers’ dance party Friday night.
The company currently has 10,000 robots and the number will be increased to 300,000 next year and 1 million in three years, according to Gou.
Xinhuanet says that Foxconn – the world’s largest maker of electronic components and the contract manufacturer for Apple, making the iPhone and the iPad – currently employs 1.2 million people, with about one million of them based on the Chinese mainland. The company made news headlines earlier this year regarding a spate of unexplained worker suicides at its plants in China.
One million robots coming. You can do the maths.
If the expectation is that robo-workers will reduce wage costs how will the robots ever afford to buy the ipads and iphones unless sale prices fall equally, let alone the former employees?
And wouldn’t the robots have in-built functionality, thereby making their production line for components redundant anyway?