At one Foxconn factory in Kunshan, China, 60,000 workers have been replaced by robots, a Chinese official said — another data point that indicates that electronics production is increasingly being automated.
Foxconn is best known as one of the primary assemblers for Apple products, but it also assembles gadgets for essentially every major electronics brand.
According to the South China Morning Post, the factory has reduced its workforce from 110,000 to 50,000. Officials are hopeful that other “major companies” in the region will soon follow suit:
“The Foxconn factory has reduced its employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000, thanks to the introduction of robots. It has tasted success in reduction of labour costs,” said [Kunshan government publicity department head] Xu Yulian.
In 2015, Foxconn chief Terry Gou predicted that Foxconn would use automated robots to complete 70 per cent of its assembly line work.
According to Apple’s 2016 supply chain report, Apple does not do any final assembly at Foxconn plants in Kunshan, Jiangsu, although other Apple suppliers, Pegatron and Wistron, do assemble iPhones in the region.
Recently, Foxconn posted a listing on its home page indicating that it’s “hiring a large number of ordinary workers” for a salary of 3,800 renminbi, or $579 dollars per month. Signs point to the increase in hiring being related to iPhone 7 production.
But it is unclear if Apple’s factories will need as many workers to assemble the iPhone 7 as they employed to assemble the iPhone 6 and other previous iPhones.
The Daily Mail recently reported on a Shanghai Pegatron plant which now reportedly has several abandoned dorms after it laid off migrant Chinese workers when they were no longer needed. “It is very rare to see so many workers being laid off. I guess this has something to do with Apple’s declining sales,” Li Qiang, founder of activist group China Labour Watch told Business Insider.
Plus, there’s an increased push to prevent workers from working more than 60 hours a week in order to comply with Chinese regulations. If workers can’t put in 80 hour weeks, as they have in the past, that would indicate that Apple contractors would need to hire more workers. But many workers who can’t put in the overtime are simply leaving the factories.
Not to worry — Apple’s contractors can pick up the slack with automated robots.
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