China has long been a source of low-cost manual labor, but the world’s largest economy will be soon home to largest population of robots.
As China’s labor costs keep rising, the Asian giant is entering a golden decade for the development of domestically produced robots. Wages have been rising 10 percent annually over the past decade while the cost of robot production has dropped by about 5 percent a year over the same period. As a result, robots are rapidly taking over China’s factory floors.
“Companies are forced to invest ever more in robots to be more productive and raise quality […] In the current phase it’s the auto industry, but in the next two or three years it will be driven by the electronics industry,” – Gudrun Litzenberger, general secretary of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).
Despite already being the biggest market in the $9.5 billion global robot trade, China also needs to play catch-up with its industrialised peers in terms of robot density. Currently, China has just 30 robots per 10,000 worker, compared with 437 in South Korea, 323 in Japan, 282 in Germany and 152 in the United States.
China’s robot army is expected to double to over 428,000 by 2017.