Will Robots replace all workers?
By Keith Johnson Think your job is safe against automation? Think again. Up until recently, the introduction of robotics and computers into the workplace has primarily posed a major threat to low-wage earners who carry out tasks usually on assembly lines. However, as the world marches headlong into the second decade of the 21st century, technology is advancing to such a degree that it is now encroaching upon occupational skills that used to belong to humans alone. As part of an ongoing series, AFP previously reported on this disturbing new trend in the Aug. 1, 2011 issue (#31) on page 7.
Foxconn, the hardware manufacturer made famous by a rash of well-publicized suicides, plans to replace some of its workers with robots. The Taiwanese company, which manufacturers laptops, mobile devices, and other hardware for Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Sony, plans to replace factory workers with more than 1 million robots, according to a state news agency Xinhua report . Terry Gou, founder and chairman of the company, told employees at a dance Friday that the move is designed to improve efficiency and combat rising labor costs. The company currently employs about 1.2 million people, but it's unknown how many people will be displaced by the robots. At least 16 workers have taken their lives since the beginning of 2010 at Foxconn's factory in Shenzhen, China, a plant that employs hundreds of thousands of workers.
Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn plans to automate some of its operation with robots, replacing existing Chinese workers. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images The electronics manufacturer Foxconn has been accused of treating its workers like machines as they toil on assembly lines, particularly after a spate of suicides among its Chinese employees in recent years. Now the company, best known for producing iPhones and other hi-tech gadgets, has found a solution: use robots instead. The Taiwanese company has vowed to expand automation in its plants, with Chinese state media reporting plans to use a million robots in the next three years.
Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer from Taiwan with huge factories in China, generates about 40 percent of the global consumer electronics revenue by creating things like iPhones and computer components on giant assembly lines staffed by humans. Until recently, you'd probably never heard of Foxconn, but a series of worker suicides made us all take a hard look at where our electronics were coming from. Foxconn has made some improvements (including nets around tall buildings), but by all accounts , the core of the problem (the work) remains "repetitive, exhausting, and alienating."