Replacing humans with robots

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This is the first episode in a video series, called Robotica, examining how robots are poised to change the way we do business and conduct our daily lives.

Faced with an acute and worsening shortage of blue-collar workers, China is rushing to develop and deploy a wide variety of robots for use in thousands of factories.

Waves of migrant workers from the countryside filled China’s factories for the last three decades and helped make the nation the world’s largest manufacturer. But many companies now find themselves struggling to hire enough workers. And for the scarce workers they do find, pay has more than quintupled in the last decade, to more than $500 a month in coastal provinces.

Chinese businesses and the government are responding by designing and starting to install large numbers of robots, with the goal of keeping factories running and expanding without necessarily causing a drop in overall employment.

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Workers are scarce partly because of the government’s “one child” policy and the rapid expansion of the university system.

Government rules limiting most couples to just one child halved the birthrate in China from 1987 to 2003. The birthrate then leveled off at a lower level per 1,000 residents than in the United States. So China has lots of workers in their late 20s, but an ever-shrinking supply of workers now entering the work force each year.


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