The Chinese town where robots replaced 60,000 workers

Jessica Morris
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A factory reduced its employee count from 110,000 to 50,000 (Source: Getty)
Chinese manufacturing hub enlisted a fleet of robots to help overhaul its growth strategy.

Kunshan, in Jiangsu province of China, used to be one of the country’s best performing economies.

But its reputation was dented after an industrial explosion killed 146 people in 2014. At the time, it was blamed on poor safety standards as well as rapid industrialisation.

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Since then Kunshan has been transitioning towards a greener, more tech-intensive economy. But this has come at the expense of growth, with its economy expanding by less than three per cent in 2014 and 2015.

The South Morning China Post reported 35 Taiwanese companies, including Apple's supplier Foxconn, spent a total of four billion yuan on artificial intelligence last year, according to the Kunshan government's publicity department.

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"The Foxconn factory has reduced its employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000, thanks to the introduction of robots. It has tasted success in reduction of labour costs," said the department's head Xu Yulian.

"More companies are likely to follow suit."

In fact, as many as 600 major companies in Kunshan have similar plans in the pipeline, according to a government survey.

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