Human labor is worth less than ever at the notorious Foxconn factory.
The company, known for producing Apple products and other American consumer electronics, was already notorious for driving workers to suicide at its Shenzhen, China location and prompting suicide nets outside the buildings.
Now, the rise of robots and automation is displacing a staggering 60,000 of its 110,000 strong workforce at a Foxconn factory in Taiwan, delivering a fatal blow to largely migrant wage earners.
Thirty-five Taiwanese companies, including Apple’s supplier Foxconn, spent a total of 4 billion yuan (HK$4.74 billion) on artificial intelligence last year, according to the Kunshan government’s publicity department
“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 labor costs,” said the department’s head Xu Yulian.
“More companies are likely to follow suit.”
As many as 600 major companies in Kunshan have similar plans, according to a government survey.
The job cuts do not augur well for Kunshan, which had a population of more than 2.5 million at the end of 2014, two-thirds of whom were migrant workers.
This trend of dying jobs is today displacing Chinese workers, but is on course to catch up to everyone and poses a realistic and frightening threat to American jobs as well. Today it is manufacturing, but tomorrow it will impact truckers, waitresses, secretaries and soon, nearly every sector.
If workers are displaced from one industry, they are driven to compete for jobs in other areas, creating additional pressure on applicants, and raising the question of where people will go if/when no more jobs are available.
If the future is automated, what happens to humans? How will they earn a living?
The answer is a conundrum, as robots do promise to do much of the labor that has been menial and, well, depressing to do – as Foxconn’s suicide factories demonstrate.
But with experts predicting that 40% of all existing human jobs will be wiped out by robots and automation, it may yet be a dark future.
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