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Foxconn will be replacing much of its Chinese work force with robots.  (Source: Southern Weekly)

Robots don't ask for raises, can't be worked to death, and -- most importantly -- don't commit suicide.  (Source: Walden University)

The move should help pad the profit margins of Foxconn parent company Hon Hai and its CEO Terry Gou. The billionaire playboy was the first to suggest that the company's Chinese employees be replaced by robots.  (Source: Baidu)
Chinese giant is top supplier of Apple products and also does contract for many other American companies

Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd. (2317) last year had to contend with a firestorm of negative publicity following a string of suicides [1][2][3] at its Chinese subsidiary, Foxconn.  Most of the suicides occurred at the company's Shenzhen city-factory, which employed 400,000 people, and was a major manufacturing center Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhones, iPods, and iPads.  The suicides claimed the lives of at least 12 employees, and at least one other employee was allegedly worked to death.

After these incidents, Taiwanese billionaire and Hon Hai CEO Terry Gou suggested one possible solution was to replace employees with robots.  Most thought the suggestion was far fetched.  But Hon Hai is looking to prove doubter wrong, announcing a sweeping plan to replace its Chinese laborers with robots.

The new robots have many advantages over humans.  They're suicide-proof (unless you believe a certain controversial GM commercial).  Their families can't sue you when you work them to death, as a) they don't have families, and b) you can't work them to death (or it would be much harder to, at least).  And best of all the robots collect no pay or benefits.

Foxconn currently has 10,000 robots at its plants.  The majority of its labor, however, is human labor.  That will change as it expands to 300,000 robots next year and 1 million robots within 3 years.

That new robotic army could replace much of the company's current 1.2 million employee work force.  Ironically an employee last year complained about the robotic nature of their job stating, "Life is meaningless.  Everyday, I repeat the same thing I did yesterday."

Aside from the suicide and working conditions complaints against Foxconn, the robots are also a response to the rising wage demands of Chinese laborers.  This trend has forced many major Chinese manufacturers to move to cheaper countries, like Vietnam, or -- like Foxconn -- consider automation.

The new Foxconn robots will be proficient at many chores, including spraying, wielding, and assembling.  While they will certainly slash jobs at the manufacturer, some are predicting that they may help to raise the salaries of the remaining specialist workers.





"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA






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