Foxconn, one of Apple’s main manufacturers, is often criticized for its poor work conditions and has been in the news headlines for worker riots and other controversies in the past few months. According to CNET, Foxconn has reportedly started replacing its factory workers with robots.
Foxconn, which is also a manufacturer for Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Sony, first announced the company’s plans to replace some workers with robots last year. The founder and chairman of the company, Terry Gou, reportedly explained to employees in July 2011 that the move was intended to improve efficiency and to combat rising labor costs.
The process has officially begun, as the first batch of 10,000 robots, nicknamed “Foxbots,” have arrived in at least one Foxconn factory, with 20,000 expected by the end of the year. The robots cost somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000 each to produce, which is apparently three times the average annual salary of Foxconn’s factory workers.
Foxconn employs 1.2 million employees in China, and has come under fire in the past few years after reports of employees committing suicide at work. Foxconn has also been criticized for and accused of hiring underage workers, poor living conditions at its dormitory housing, and overworking employees.
In response to the suicides (at least 16 since early 2010 at the Shenzhen, China, plant), Foxconn put up “suicide nets” to discourage employees from jumping. They also raised salaries by 25 percent.
Apple has also been working with Foxconn throughout 2012 to improve working conditions in factories. Apple has sought help from the Chinese Fair Labor Association, which has done inspections to point out the areas that Foxconn needs to improve. Long story short, they drastically need to improve. Thing is, though, no one was expecting the improvements to include firing people and replacing them with robots.
Image Credit: Cult of Mac