Foxconn to replace troublesome human beings with robots
According to Xinhuanet (the official Chinese news agency) "Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn will replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency, said Terry Gou, founder and chairman of the company, late Friday".
This is an old story and you could see it coming for Foxconn. A few months ago when I talked about the problem of labor conditions at Foxconn, where products for Apple, Sony, Nokia and others are made, I suggested that a need to improve labor conditions might end up with a lot of jobs being eliminated. This seems to be the case.
"The robots will be used to do simple and routine work such as spraying, welding and assembling which are now mainly conducted by workers, said Gou at a workers' dance party Friday night".
A workers' dance party. Sometimes after that 18 hour shift of plugging a particular wire harness onto a particular circuit board you just need to boogie down a bit. But the robot's shift will be 24x7.
This is the way economies develop. In the long run what the Chinese will need is education so that their own people can perform skilled labor, at which point they can outsource their own oppressive work conditions to wherever labor is cheap.
Our only leverage as consumers is not to buy products made under conditions of which we don't approve. Is doing that really a favor for the employees? Should our consciences as consumers rest easier now that Foxconn will oppress fewer humans and use machines more instead?
Larry Seltzer is a freelance writer and consultant, dealing mostly with security matters. He has written recently for Infoworld, eWEEK, Dr. Dobb's Journal, and is a Contributing Editor at PC Magazine and author of their Security Watch blog. He has also written for Symantec Authentication (formerly VeriSign) and Lumension's Intelligent Whitelisting site.