Robots make up for country's labor shortage

By Zhang Lulu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 25, 2016
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More and more Chinese factories are using robots to make up for the shortage of labor in the country.

"I will ask my colleagues to go to the recruitment fair every week, but no progress has been made so far after three months. I know this won't work out, as there are more companies recruiting than people applying for jobs," said Liu Jihong, vice general manager of a Zhejiang-based company that produces seats for engineering machinery as well as for commercial and passenger vehicles.

The company is recently trying to establish a subsidiary in Hefei, the capital city of its neighboring Anhui Province, but has found itself struggling to find adequate workers.

Liu said that not only car equipment companies like his, but also auto makers, are short of workers. "When there are not enough workers, you wish you could bring all your family members to do it!"

The company is just one of the many companies in Zhejiang Province that are struggling to find adequate manpower. According to Liu, the local labor force in Zhejiang is far from sufficient, while the number of people from the country's most populated provinces -- Yunnan, Sichuan and Henan which used to provide most of the spare labor is decreasing too.

Companies all over China have been trying to make up for the labor shortage with robots. Shanghai-based Baosteel, the country's largest steel maker, said that robots would replace more than 2,000 workers and that there would be 1,000 robots installed by the end of 2021.

China plans to increase the annual production of home-made industrial robots to 100,000 by 2020, according to a five-year plan for the robot industry released earlier this year.

Zhejiang Province has been advocating a policy of what they call "machines replace workers," since late 2012. The province has rolled out a number of supportive policies to replace workers with industrial robots. A total of 36,000 major companies will replace their human force with robots by 2017, earlier reports say.

Liu said that though the rise of robots is prompted by the shortage of labor, companies are also faced with stricter quality requirements coming from the market and customers. For instance, experienced workers doing welding work, which is essential for the quality and safety of industrial products, are not easy to find, hence the investment in welding robots.

Quality and safety is the lifeline of auto equipment makers, Liu said. He added that if auto makers recall its products due to the defects in parts, it will be a "death sentence" for the equipment makers.

A vice general manager in eastern China's Liaocheng City echoed this. His company has placed orders for more than 200 robots. "This not only reduces the possibility of industrial safety accidents, but also improves productivity. The trend of robots replacing workers is irreversible," he said.

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