Why Foxconn’s iPhone robots could create American jobs

“Many complain that Americans are losing their jobs to two things: China and robots,” Marcus Wohlsen reports for Wired. “But what if those two things are bringing American jobs back?”

“That’s a distinct possibility if Foxconn, the enormous Asian gadget manufacturer best known for assembling the iPhone, begins opening factories to the U.S., as it says it’s trying to do,” Wohlsen reports. “These Foxconn factories won’t be like the auto plants of the 1950s, that bygone era politicians so often invoke when promising the revival of U.S. manufacturing. Most of the jobs in these factories likely will require more than a high school diploma, and there won’t be as many of them to be had. But some analysts argue that the ‘re-shoring’ of U.S. factory jobs is a real and growing phenomenon. We can thank two things for this: China and robots.”

“The labor situation is changing in China, where Foxconn has long operated factories in order to take advantage of cheap labor. In a sense, the growing middle class in China has become the victim of its own success. As the economy has grown, so has the demand for higher wages. The armies of cheap labor don’t come so cheap anymore,” Wohlsen reports. “This is the imperative pushing Foxconn to look elsewhere, including the U.S. Rising wages have led the company to promote some workers in its vast Chinese plants to higher skilled engineering positions, while at the same time seeking to increase automation. That means robots. In other words, Chinese factories are starting to look more like U.S. factories.”

Much more in the full article here.


    1. A very good question. There are other factors in the mix, including the costs of building and operating a manufacturing facility (including the robotic equipment) and of transportation of products to sales points or the end user.

      Cost and availability of personnel with appropriate skills. Taxes. Politics, e.g., subsidies?

  1. When you’re making phones on the scale that Apple does, it might make sense to have multiple manufacturing facilities around the world in order to ensure continuity of production in the event of political instability, earthquakes or transport issues.

    Once the assembly process is sufficiently automated, the assembly plants could be pretty well anywhere in the world.

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