Robots have replaced 60,000 Chinese workers at the Apple and Samsung supplier Foxconn, which has recently cut its workforce by more than half.
According to the South China Morning Post
, 35 companies in Taiwan spent four billion Chinese yuan, or $610 million, on artificial intelligence last year, according to the government in Kunshan, one of the manufacturing hubs of China's electronics industry.
"The Foxconn factory has reduced its employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000, thanks to the introduction of robots," said Xu Yulian, of Kushan's publicity department. "It has tasted success in reduction of labor costs. More companies are likely to follow suit."
Foxconn told BBC News
in a statement that the robots perform "manufacturing tasks associated with our operations," and also claimed their use does not mean long-term job losses.
"We are applying robotics engineering and other innovative manufacturing technologies to replace repetitive tasks previously done by employees, and through training, also enable our employees to focus on higher value-added elements in the manufacturing process, such as research and development, process control and quality control," Foxconn said.
"We will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations, and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China."
BBC News reported that more than 500 factories across Dongguan, in the Guangdong province, have spent 4.2 billion yuan, or $640 million, on robots, with plans to replace thousands of workers.
Ed Rensi, who was chief executive officer of McDonald's USA in the 1990s, made headlines recently when he told Fox Business
that robots would be cheaper than hiring humans at $15 an hour. He made the comments in connection with recent campaigns to increase the minimum wage.
"I was at the National Restaurant Show yesterday and if you look at the robotic devices that are coming into the restaurant industry – it's cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries," Rensi said. "It's nonsense and it's very destructive and it's inflationary and it's going to cause a job loss across this country like you're not going to believe."
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