Business

Samsung told to build bots who work for less than Foxconn staffers

South Korea's target is smartphones and other kit that currently requires human hands

Samsung and South Korea are taking aim at electronics manufacturing costs with a new investment in robots it's hoped will make mechanical men cheaper to operate even in jobs that currently need flexible human fingers.

South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has found 6.75 billion won (US$14.8 million) for an effort to help Samsung develop bots capable of handling tricky tasks. The Ministry and Samsung are bold as brass about their aim: with wages rising in China, the pair reckon better 'bots could undercut the cost of the human workers who today build devices like smartphones. If the plan works, South Korea stands to pick up business operating and/or supplying factories to do the jobs that today require plenty of workers in China and other developing nations.

Big contract manufacturers are very cost-sensitive, so anything that reduces their outgoings will be welcome. Or maybe not: China's rise has been helped by the many millions of people who have been able to win decently-paying semi-skilled jobs. China knows manufacturing isn't its long-term ticket to prosperity, but will also hope these bots don't arrive in a hurry. So will the likes of India and Indonesia, who are trying hard to bring electronics manufacturing to their shores.

Reg readers might also hope Samsung's research isn't particularly successful, on grounds that anything with the potential to retard the rise of a middle class in the nations mentioned above makes for less-vigorous potential export markets. ®

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