A new survey by the Wuhan University Institute of Quality Development Strategy is revealing that in the next five years, machinery and robotics are set to take over nearly 5% of China’s workers. The report surveyed nearly 2,000 companies in China.
Robot use growing
What they found was that the use of robotics rose from 12% in 2008 to 37% in 2017. They also found that robot use had grown from 8.1% to 13.4% in just two years from 2015 to 2017.
Furthermore, in those two years, the average annual growth rate of investments in robotics was an impressive 57%. What was most troublesome is that this rise mostly impacted workers with the lowest levels of education.
In those same two years, robots replaced 9.4% of employees with a junior high school degree or below. This was in direct contrast to the fact that demand for college degree workers grew by 3.6%.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, China has become a global leader in automation. The organization reported that from 2018 to 2020 "a sales increase between 15 and 20% on average per year is possible for industrial robots."
The biggest robot market
“China is by far the biggest robot market in the world regarding annual sales and regarding the operational stock,” said Joe Gemma, President of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). “It is the fastest growing market worldwide. There has never been such a dynamic rise in such a short period of time in any other market.”
This is all well and good but one has to wonder how the country plans to take care of the workers left behind. Ideally, they should be retrained to take on roles that work with this rise of automation.
However, although we are hearing much about China's focus on automation, we hear little about what it plans to do with the workers replaced by robots. That may be an important issue to ponder.