One factory has “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots”, a government official told the South China Morning Post.
Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region, added: “More companies are likely to follow suit.”
China is investing heavily in a robot workforce.
Foxconn, spent a total of 4 billion yuan (HK$4.74 billion) on artificial intelligence last year.
The manufacturing hub for the electronics industry, Kunshan, in Jiangsu province, is seeking a drastic reduction in labour costs as it undergoes a makeover after an industrial explosion killed 146 people in 2014.
The county, one-seventh the size of neighbouring Shanghai and the mainland’s first county to achieve US$4,000 per capita income, was adjudged the best county for its economic performance by Forbes for seven years in a row.
“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.
Economists have issued dire warnings about how automation will affect the job market, with one report, from consultants Deloitte in partnership with Oxford University, suggesting that 35% of jobs were at risk over the next 20 years.
Former McDonald’s chief executive Ed Rensi recently told the US’s Fox Business programme a minimum-wage increase to $15 an hour would make companies consider robot workers.
“It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries,” he said
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