Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Replacing Cog Labor with Robots (Foxconn)

Foxconn wants to put 1M robots to work in next 3 years citing army of chinese cog labor no longer cheap after 13 provinces up minimum wage by average 21%. When cog labor gets too expensive(incl benefits, leave, morale problems etc), companies will attempt to automate it if offshoring is not feasible.

Does replacing routine tasks done by cog labor with robots mean masses of workers are unemployed? It is not a losing scenario. One need only look at the horse carriage & automobile industry. Sure workers making horse carriages are obselete but entire new array of jobs in automobile & related companies have since sprout up.

China is moving up the value chain with automation but what about S'pore? It paints a grim picture for S'pore which current incumbent govt relies heavily on imported cheap labor instead of measures leaning towards automation to keep costs of doing business low & competitive. With massive influx of foreign workers to suppress local wages, many so called 'consumers' as the mass media call it have not much 'disposable' income(another bad name; need to dispose?) for spending amid record debt levels esp via housing costs.

Many white collar jobs are now also cog labor-do as told, routine no need to think much mundane job tasks. The term white collar is overrated nowadays. Is not surprising depression & suicides are rising among the general working population since many employees are like mindless robots working in an ever faster rolling production line doing what they are told with little to no control in exchange for the security of a steady paycheck(steady? is a myth).

Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group, known for assembling Apple's iPhones and iPads in China, plans to use more robots, with one report saying the company will use 1 million of them in the next 3 years, to cope with rising labor costs.

Foxconn employs about 1.2 million workers, 1 million of which are based in mainland China. Use of automation is driven by Foxconn's desire to move workers from more routine tasks to more value-added positions in manufacturing such as R&D, innovation & other areas that are equally important to success.

Automation is a general trend in many sectors in China plagued by strikes & suicides, such as electronics. Of course some companies will consider moving their manufacturing overseas, but it's easier said than done when the supply chain is there.

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