Adidas And Foxconn Join The ‘Robot Revolution’

Restaurants, sportswear and tech companies are de-humaning their operations, but at what cost to blue-collar employees?

Adidas Axe Employees

Restaurant owners would rather have robots than pay their employees a living wage. It certainly appears so, if you take a look at the statements of Andrew Pudzer, CEO of CKE Restaurants, and Ed Rensi, former CEO of McDonald’s.

But they are not the only ones. Now, tech and sportswear companies have also joined the ranks of those who prefer to de-human their processes.

Foxconn, one of the major suppliers for Apple and Samsung, announced this week that it was reducing its labor force from “110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots. It has tasted success in reduction of labor costs.”

Since September 2014, over 500 factories across Dongguan, in the Guangdong province of China, have invested 4.2 billion yuan (over $640 million) in robots that purport to replace human workers.

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Separately, the sports shoe giant, Adidas, has resumed its production in Germany after a 20-year hiatus over rising wages, but blue-collared workers shouldn’t get their hopes up.

Work now being done by hand will soon be carried out by robotic devices as part of the firm’s “automated revolution.”

“We believe that this is pioneer work for a fully automated production process,” Adidas spokesman Jan Runau stated, adding that automation will mean the firm "will be able to get the desired product to the customer much faster."

Economists have become increasingly concerned that automation can have an adverse effect on job markets. Deloitte, in a partnership with Oxford University, has suggested that as much as 35% of jobs are at risk in the next two decades. Robots target one of the most vulnerable communities, those who are already underpaid, unskilled and insufficiently educated.

Advocates of automation have insisted it will create more jobs but many critics believe that that’s no longer true, considering the jobs which are being created are the ones that can be automated.

Most companies seem to agree that machines do a job more quickly and less expensively and they do contribute to the productivity of the economy. But the question that is now being raised is, will the benefits of a richer economy be distributed equally, or to just those select few who earn enough from their non-automated jobs?

And what will be the social implications of that?

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