There is no doubt that technology is playing a bigger role in the workforce domestically and abroad. Taking its influence several steps further than the standard cellular device and tablet, engineers have attempted to perfect automated machinery. According to the latest insights from Chinese media outlets, the world’s largest manufacturing entity of electronics, Foxconn, has swapped out 60,000 human employees with robots. A Chinese government representative mentioned in a public statement that Foxconn has, “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots. It has tasted the success in reduction of labor costs.” The organization is the leading manufacturer of Apple Products, but the company has not yet commented on this latest development. Apple itself has invested in robotics. In March, it unveiled a robot called “Liam,” designed to rip apart devices for recycling in less than 20 seconds.
Despite public concern about these events, Foxconn told the BBC that they had no intentions of offering fewer positions for future and present employees. In fact, the introduction of these machines on the assembly line are primarily serving to extend the job responsibilities of human labor. Foxconn said to the BBC that they “will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations, and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China.” The meticulous and often monotonous nature of repeatedly doing the same action on the assembly line is already nearly identical to a robot. Therefore, it is these types of job duties that Foxconn feel would be most suitable for machinery. In the meantime, it’s manpower can concentrate on the more analytical and precise work tasks such as R&D and quality control.
Foxconn’s announcement symbolizes a substantial transition towards an automated work world. This hasn’t been experienced on such magnitude since the automation of automobile production lines in the late 20th century. However, moves like these are not a surprise to those that have been paying attention. The Inquirer mentioned in 2014 that Google and Foxconn would be collaborating to develop their robotic machinery and that replacing human resources with technology would be the biggest occurrence to take place in its industry. And they aren’t the only ones. Amazon and Microsoft have all developed their form of automated technology that presumably would be used to boost labor efficiency. Also, the South China Morning Post reported that 35 Companies from Taiwan had spent over $600 million on artificial intelligence in 2015. Many of theses organizations have thousands of employees all in the satellite city of Kunshan where nearly 70% of the population are migrant workers. Since Foxconn’s robotic integration, a government survey reported that 600 companies are strategizing how to emulate the company’s approach. Skeptics argue that Foxconn’s push towards a more technological environment is simply a vehicle to avoid improving pay and work conditions. In 2014, the China Labor Watch noted thousands of employees organizing strikes and demanding a healthier work atmosphere. Ironically, there were reports that workers had written on picket signs displaying the words, “We Aren’t Robots.”
It seems as if the context of the times is catching up with us. The demand from consumers to receive quality high-tech devices at even more affordable prices while employees require increased pay and a more sanitary work setting makes the implementation of robots the only logical solution.
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