Chinese Apple, Samsung Contractor Buys Robots, Eliminates 60K Employees

Foxconn, a supplier of electrical components to apple and Samsung, says replaced half the 110,000-person workforce in its Kunshan, China, factory with robots and artificial intelligence. Photo by Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia

KUNSHAN , China, May 27 (UPI) — A massive Chinese electronics factory, the clients of which include Apple and Samsung, says it slashed 60,000 jobs by bringing in robots.

The Foxconn plant in Jiangsu province is one of many manufacturing facilities, many Taiwanese-owned, in the county of Kunshan, an electronics hub. After a 2014 explosion and fire — blamed on inadequate safety standards and hit-or-miss industrialization — killed 146 workers and injured the city’s reputation, automation has been the byword.

So has the reduction of labor costs. Foxconn and 34 other Taiwanese companies spent $610 million in 2014 on artificial intelligence, including manufacturing robots, the company said. The result is a quick and staggering reduction in employees, and about 600 other companies in Kunshan are ready to duplicate the effort.

“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 Xu Yulian of the Kunshan publicity department. “More companies are likely to follow suit.”

Two-thirds of the city’s population is comprised of migrant workers, with many now out of work.

The county was China’s first to reach a per capita income of $4,000, but growth has stalled as the local government, changed after the 2014 accident, now insists on a zero-growth policy toward new factories and a greener and more tech-intensive tax base.


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