Automation will affect outsourcing, hitting job creation in countries that focus on low-cost production based on availability of cheap labour. It could also cause political instability. At some point in the near future robots will be even cheaper than humans as a medium or long-term investment for a company, without the bad PR that comes from stories about how workers are being exploited or are suffering…
• Technology Review: Migrant Workers in China Face Competition from Robots
…it was a surprise when Terry Guo, the hard-charging, 61-year-old billionaire CEO of Foxconn, said last July that the Taiwan-based manufacturing giant would add up to one million industrial robots to its assembly lines inside of three years.
The aim: to automate assembly of electronic devices just as companies in Japan, South Korea, and the United States previously automated much of the production of automobiles.
Foxconn, one of China’s largest private employers, has long played an outsize role in China’s labor story. It has used cheap labor to attract multinational clients but now faces international scrutiny over low pay and what some see as inhumane working conditions.
China’s leaders see employment as essential to maintaining a harmonious society.
About 300,000 Chinese workers currently live in dormitories at Foxconn’s Longhua factory complex, where Apple products are assembled…
…it takes five days and 325 steps to assemble an iPad… Such highly structured and predictable tasks are well suited to automation…
…a single robot might replace two workers, and possibly as many as four.
• Technology Review: The Future of Work (Business Report for July 2012)
In July’s business report Technology Review examines the cutting edge of automation—the jobs it is destroying and the prosperity it is creating.