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Commentary: Could automation solve labor issues for Foxconn?
Ninelu Tu, Taipei; Joseph Tsai, DIGITIMES [Tuesday 10 January 2012]

China has always given the impression of having a large and cheap labor force. But as the country's population structure and social values are starting to change, Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry), which is known for its strict management, is also seeking ways to cope with the changes. Foxconn has been aggressive in introducting automation production to reduce its reliance on manual labor, but it remains to be seen whether the move will work.

Foxconn chairman Terry Guo has pointed out many times that China's young people today have completely different values and attitude than the older generations. Therefore, Foxconn will have to adjust its management strategy to fit into the quickly-changing society.

In addition to giving up its concept that "the company is the family" and allowing its employees to return to their own lives after work, Guo is also allowing automation to take over some of the monotonous work from employees.

Although Guo plans to install one million robots within the next three years, some market observers are still skeptical of the move. They have noted that many of Foxconn's assembly lines will still need a huge amount of laborers.

Moreover, Foxconn currently employs over one million workers in China. Unless the company actually sees labor shortages, the Chinese government would not be happy to see one of the biggest employers of the country reduce its human work force in favor of robots.

Therefore, some observers believe that Foxconn must provide better training for its employees and try to increase the value of manual labor.

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