The eastern coastal province of Zhejiang will invest 500 billion yuan (US$82 billion) over the next five years to encourage manufacturers to use more robots to offset the short supply and high cost of labor, China Daily reported Thursday, citing sources at the provincial economic and information commission. The program will help at least 5,000 companies a year to boost automated manufacturing. From 2005 to 2012, the average labor cost in the province almost tripled to 41,370 yuan a year, with an annual increase of nearly 16 percent, the newspaper said. A survey conducted by the commission in May showed that the use of robots has brought down labor shortages from 80 percent last year to 56.4 percent. More than 60 percent of the firms surveyed have reduced production line workers by at least 10 percent, while 16 percent have cut production jobs by more than 30 percent, the report said. The use of robots has also improved productivity by more than 10 percent, it added.
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