Last year, almost as many industrial robots were installed in China’s factories as in the rest of the world. This reaffirms the country’s commitment to increase its manufacturing capacity despite a shrinking working-age population, notes the Wall Street Journal.
In 2021, the supply of industrial robots to China increased by 45% compared to the previous year, exceeding 243 thousand units, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing the latest data from the International Federation of Robotics.
One of the reasons for China’s rapid automation is the government’s desire to close the gap with leading Western countries in the robotization of manufacturing processes. A significant role is played by the fact that China’s population is aging and, accordingly, the supply of labor is decreasing and wages are rising.
China’s average hourly labor productivity in 2021 was 1/4 that of the G7 and one-fifth that of the US, according to the Conference Board. In addition, China’s productivity growth has recently slowed. After growing by an average of 9% per year in the period 2000-2010, it is now expected to grow by 7.4% per year over the next decade.
Chinese youth prefer to work in the growing service sector instead of manufacturing. The International Labor Organization estimates that about 147 million people were employed in China’s manufacturing sector in 2021, up from a peak of 169 million in 2012. During the same period, employment in the service sector grew by 32% to about 365 million people .
Factory automation will also allow factories to perform more complex operations that require greater precision. But despite the growth of China’s robotics sector, most of the equipment installed there is made overseas, mostly in Japan.