Chinese companies continue to replace humans with robots due to high labor costs and short labor supply.
According to a survey, one in four workers in the Pearl River Delta has changed jobs over two years. Because of this, factories have started using robots to replace human workers.
Albert Park, one of the said survey’s designers, said that one of the reasons why companies start using robots is a high turnover of workers—they would have to pay more to retain them.
According to South China Morning Post, the country “is embracing robotics with the same full-on intensity that’s made it a force in high-speed rail and renewable energy.” This, according to economic planners, could reportedly serve as a step to bigger goals: dominating AI markets and driverless vehicles.
A double-edged sword?
More and more Chinese companies are using robots to work in factories.
Changying Precision Technology, a mobile phone production company, replaced 90% of its workforce (a total of nearly 600 workers) with robots.
According to Monetary Watch, it only took 60 robots to do the job at the company’s factory in Dongguan, China. The pieces produced per person went from 8,000 to 21,000–a productivity increase of 250 percent.
In addition, the factory’s reported defects went down to 5% from 20%.
Another big Chinese company, JD.com, has been working hard in developing robotic technology that will help automate warehouses. One of their robot is a spider-like machine that can reportedly sort 3,600 objects an hour—four times more than one person could do.
While this is exciting because of the efficiency and innovation, but many are saying that this could pave way to a bigger problem. People who have been replaced by robots may have a very difficult time to look for jobs.
The uncertain future
It is still too early to tell if China will be able to keep up with competitive countries like the Germany, South Korea, and the United States. Bloomberg reported that the country had 49 robots per 10,000 workers in 2015—this is competition with 531 in South Korea, 301 in Germany, and 176 in the U.S.
“They’re putting a lot of money and a lot of effort into automation and robotics in China. There’s nothing keeping them from coming after our market,” John Roemisch, of Fanuc America Corp. told Bloomberg.
The world should find out soon enough. Various efforts to up the robot game are being launched in the country, including a five-year plan to transform the robotics industry with new technologies and enhanced production capacity.