For all the love heaped on Apple’s artful products, critics have long pointed to a dark side—the working conditions at factories where iPhones and iPads are made. Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer that churns out the gadgets, has struggled in recent years with over a dozen worker suicides in China. In response, it has boosted wages and even put up netting to stop employees from jumping from rooftops.
Its latest bid to solve labour woes goes a step further. Last week, Foxconn launched a $224-million project to build one million robots in the coming three years to use in its factories. The output, which has been described in Taiwan as “an empire of robots,” will double the number of industrial robots in the world and replace 500,000 Foxconn workers. The company has said the efforts will move employees “higher up the value chain.” No doubt it will also ease rising labour costs and shortages.