By Nicholas West
Foxconn might not be a company that is at the forefront of most American minds, but the products they create most certainly are. Christmas might not have been the same without considering purchases of Apple’s iPhone, some of Amazon’s Kindle products, or Microsoft’s Xbox to name but a few. The Taiwan-based company is the world’s leader in contract manufacturing of electronics with a market cap north of $100 billion; they have also become the third largest employer in the world with 1.3 million, which makes the following news that much more troubling.
Foxconn first rose to some level of notoriety – indeed infamy – when reports of human rights violations began to surface in the early part of this decade. Foxconn chose to remedy a spike in worker suicides during 2010-2011 at one of their Chinese plants by installing “suicide nets” so those subjected to slave-like conditions could remain on the plantation. Nevertheless, 2,000 workers rioted in 2012 amid charges of abuse by security guards making it doubtful that conditions had improved.
Now with the rise in automation, Foxconn is leading the way toward eliminating the need to deal with human employees altogether, demonstrating that the race to the bottom might end in factories filled exclusively with robots.
Foxconn is implementing a three-phase plan to convert the human workforce into “Foxbots” and they have successfully eliminated 60,000 employees at just one of their factories.
Foxconn is merely the canary in the coal of mine of the global outsourcing of humans to machines that is accelerating rapidly as we transition into the new year, and some experts estimate could see all of us outsourced by 2045. This might be the reason why automation has become such a prominent topic of the economic elite and its corporate media public relations arm.