State News

UW report: Foxconn jobs likely won’t go to robots

Foxconn is partnering with Gateway Technical College to provide internships to about 10 students.

Image By: Courtesy of Creative Commons

After news that Foxconn Technology Group eliminated thousands of jobs at Chinese factories in favor of robots and automated technology, some are concerned that the 13,000 jobs Foxconn promises to bring to Wisconsin will meet the same fate.

But according to one UW-Extension researcher, Foxconn’s American jobs are not at high risk of automation.

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in September giving Foxconn the state’s largest subsidy ever — the bill obligates the state to pay $2.85 billion in cash to Foxconn for a plant in southeastern Wisconsin, assuming the company continues to create jobs. Opponents of the bill pointed to potential automation as one reason the deal might be detrimental to the state.

But Matt Kures, a community development specialist at the UW-Extension Center for Community and Economic Development, found that making electronic parts requires more education and experience than the manufacturing industry as a whole, making it less susceptible to automation.

Kures published his research in a UW-Extension report, but noted that predicting which jobs are most susceptible to automation is difficult.

The concern over robots replacing Wisconsinites in plants came not only from Foxconn’s history of automation, but also from research. A study published by Oxford University researchers Carl Frey and Michael Osborne suggested 47 percent of American jobs are at a high risk of automation.

Frey and Osborne’s study found that manufacturing jobs were even more likely to be automated, with 57 percent of them rated as highly susceptible. 

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