Troubled Taiwanese iPhone producer replacing Chinese workers with robots

Taiwan IT giant Foxconn — hit by a spate of suicides at its Chinese plants — has announced plans to replace 500 000 human workers with one million robots in the next three years.

Foxconn — the world’s largest maker of computer components, which assembles products for Apple, Sony, and Nokia — plans to use one million robots to do “simple work”, China Business News quoted chairman Terry Gou saying.

Gou announced the plan to 10 000 staff at a company event in Shenzhen China on Friday, various media reports said. China is where the majority of Foxconn’s production occurs.

Foxconn currently has 10 000 robots doing painting, welding and assembly tasks. It will increase that number to 300 000 next year and to one million in 2014, the report said.

A Foxconn spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment. However, the BBC reports that the company has in a statement quoted Mr Gou as saying he wanted to move one million employees “higher up the value chain”.

The Taiwan-based company employs more than one million workers at its Chinese plants, about half of them based in its main facility in Shenzhen.

At least 14 workers committed suicide in the last year, most of them in Shenzhen. Activists blamed the deaths on tough working conditions and have called for better treatment of staff. Foxconn, as reported by the BBC, has also been faced by rising salaries and wage disputes as living conditions in China rise.

Foxconn has been expanding its workforce in other parts of China as it seeks to scale back the size of its Shenzhen plant.

The firm opened a US$2-billion Chengdu plant in October, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. — AFP with additional reporting by Staff Reporter



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