Migrant worker Xia Xiaobo is the face of China’s new unemployment class: those displaced by automation.
Xia, age 34, quit his job at a Japanese-owned electronics factory in Dongguan last year due to his growing concern how the extensive increase in automation in the industrial city would affect his future job prospects.
In contrast to many of his former colleagues who moved to small manufacturing firms where robots had not yet been introduced to a large extent, Xia sought to upgrade his skills to insulate himself against the automation movement.
He spent the equivalent of three months’ salary on a vocational training course starting in August and will begin looking for a new job after he finishes in mid-March.
“I am learning automation programming to see if I can find any job in intelligent manufacturing,” Xia said.
Around 100 million workers are employed in China’s manufacturing industry, with data from the National Bureau of Statistics showing manufacturing accounted for about 30 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product in the first three quarters of 2018.
As part of its effort to upgrade its manufacturing sector, the Chinese government started a campaign in 2014 with the overall aim gradually replace manual labour with robots, with the heavily industrialised provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong among those introducing the new technology on a massive scale.
The city government of Dongguan, in the heart of the Guangdong province that is known as being China’s industrial and export hub, allocated 385 million yuan (US$56.8 million) to boost automation in factories last year alone… see more