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Entries in Robots (1)

Monday
Aug012011

Chinese Company Has a Million Workers, Plans a Million Robots

Forbes Conrad/Bloomberg via Getty Images(SHENZEN, China) -- Foxconn, the world's largest maker of computer components, has a million employees on the Chinese mainland. In three years, its CEO says it plans to have a million robots.

Foxconn is one of those companies you may not often hear about -- which is understandable, since its products bear the logos of Apple, Nokia, Sony and other brands. If you have an iPhone or a Dell laptop, it may well have passed through a Foxconn plant. The firm is based in Taiwan, and Western companies turn to it because of its low labor costs.

The company has taken a lot of heat over the last couple of years for the conditions under which its people have had to work. In the first half of 2010 there were 10 suicides reported at the company's massive complex in Shenzen, China -- many involving workers who put in long hours at stifling jobs for little pay.

According to Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, the company's founder and chairman, announced at a workers' dance party Friday night that things would change. It will presumably mean robots take the place of some assembly-line workers, doing tasks such as soldering and packaging.

Xinhua said the company currently has 10,000 robots online and expects that number to increase by 300,000 next year, and 1 million in three years, according to Gou.

For a high-tech company, Foxconn's assembly lines are often described as remarkably low-tech. Workers perform repetitive tasks, from putting components in place to closing the cases to adding the decals, all for what Americans would consider sweatshop wages. Last year, after protests -- and a rash of suicides by workers who felt trapped in menial jobs -- Gou said the company was raising salaries by 70 percent "to safeguard the dignity of workers."

Many of the company's workers are young migrant workers under the age of 25 who came from rural areas, lured by the factory jobs. They complained they found it hard to make ends meet. After last year's raises, the average assembly-line worker at Foxconn made the equivalent of $290 a month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio