Foxconn: Fewer People, More Robots

Foxconn is a Chinese-owned factory where they mass produce several things, technological products in particular.  Workers manufacturing Apple products through Foxconn have made plenty of complaints, particularly concerning are forcing to work excessive overtime and the dormitory living conditions, in my opinion.  Working conditions have been an issue for a long time, since the Industrial Revolution, and that’s why I’m choosing to leave working conditions out of a concerning issue Foxconn workers face.  (Additional articles on Foxconn manufacturing workers producing for Apple: The Guardian, CNN, NY Times.)

Being forced to work excessive overtime is crazy.  In more developed worlds, we’re finding out that the more you work, especially one with high-level stress and the worker doesn’t enjoy the work, leads to shorter lifespans, greater risk of illnesses, and productivity decreases because the worker is exhausted all the time.  If you’ve worked a job with high-level stress that you hate and you don’t get enough rest, you dread coming to work.

Young women not being allowed to use a hair dryer in the dorms because the dorms are prone to fires caused by hair dryers.  Overcrowding in dorms also makes the spread of illnesses much quicker, like a mini-epidemic, because workers are in closer proximity to one another.  Who can forget the suicide prevention nets?

These and other reasons have led Chinese people to boycott Apple products (Boycott, Apple).

Do you have blood on your hands?

The article below is from BBC.  There’s a second portion to the commentary at the end of the article.

Foxconn replaces ‘60,000 factory workers with robots’

25 May 2016

Workers at a Foxconn factory
Workers have complained in the past about conditions in Foxconn’s factories. Getty Images

Apple and Samsung supplier Foxconn has reportedly replaced 60,000 factory workers with robots.

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.

In a statement to the BBC, Foxconn Technology Group confirmed that it was automating “many of the manufacturing tasks associated with our operations” but denied that it meant long-term job losses.

“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.

“We will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations, and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China.”

Since September 2014, 505 factories across Dongguan, in the Guangdong province, have invested 4.2bn yuan (£430m) in robots, aiming to replace thousands of workers.

Kunshan, Jiangsu province, is a manufacturing hub for the electronics industry.

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.

I don’t believe that Foxconn will train the workers they’ve replaced with robots for higher-value duties in the factory.  It’s a manufacturing factory! The only positions that have additional value are managerial or marketing (I also doubt that any type of company marketing will take place in a noisy factory).  So if you’re not organizing laborers, which I consider very high-value in the workplace AND employers are extremely opposed of, the robots are staying and workers are going.

Young factory workers are usually lured by the prospect of making more money than their current position (whatever the job may be, probably a farmer (there are a couple of documentaries about other manufacturing somewhere on my blog)), especially when they hear of the prospect of sending money home.  Usually, the money is enough of a pull factor.  Another good tactic commonly used is lying.  The middle-man/person will lie about the extreme working and living conditions.  One must be careful of signing contracts without reading.  Also, workers can also be a victim of wage theft.  So be really careful.

Historically, Chinese people expect their government to take care of their people, one way is through telling businesses to hire people, which, at times, were at the expense of technological advances, which led to China being technologically behind the rest of the world.  It was profitable and advantageous for business people to hire more people opposed to investing in technology: (1) get public support/approval for doing the right thing, and (2) hiring more hands were less expensive than using the latest technology (because of the surplus of workers, wages decreased (David Ricardo’s Iron Law of Wages)).  If there’s no incentive for advancement, then there’s no reason to pursue anything remotely related to advancement.  It’s the short-term thinking people need to get away from, in my opinion.

Regarding the final comment about the $15 minimum wage increase in the U.S. for McDonald’s makes investing in robot hands very attractive, this is a topic where people can be on different sides on.

From a business perspective, especially a corporate perspective, they only look at profit margins and dividends.  If your business is on the brinks of bankruptcy or breaking even, it’s understandable to reconsider hiring help.  However, are people doing mundane duties not entitled to wages to a little bit more than survive? Not only are single people working at McDonald’s, but single parents are also working there.

The strongest fight for $15 comes from Southern CA; one of the reasons is because the standard of living is so high.  Take out taxes for every paycheck and see how much money the average worker has.  I have a job where I get paid by piecework and it equates to $6/hr. (the job also doesn’t require a lot of brain power).  But when I have any big expense to pay (tuition and bills) I won’t make enough money with this job alone, so I have to get a loan.  So have some compassion for humanity.

By the way, I’ve never heard of anyone bragging that they’re working at McDonald’s who come out of work smelling of a combination of being dipped in a deep fryer and covered in body odor.


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I began writing Elle's Adventure in China (EACh) in June 2014 as a fun summer project, but as obstacles kept interfering with my plans, I forked and forked more options. I took writing this novel much more seriously in mid-July, and want to have it officially published someday in my lifetime. As many artists put their hearts into their projects, so do I. I did not start out liking to read, but a professor suggested a book for me for homework a few years ago, and it was an amazing book. Since then, I read for pleasure, and I hope my novel, Elle's Adventure in China, does the same for as many of you as possible. The same thing goes to writing. I did not like to write until I took a course where the professor and papers made me love to write. I hope every one of you find what makes you happy and dedicated to work. In May 2015, I started my other blog, Read and Write Here (R&WH), as a place to post other things that aren't China- and Chinese culture-related and not EACh. I share some of my memories and experiences from student teaching, irregular participation in Daily Prompts, etc. I'd like to have regular people and bloggers to write book reviews and post it on R&WH someday. Keep reading and writing!

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