BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly 2021/52

The latest figures available from the International Federation of Robotics show that China installed 168,000 new industrial robots in 2020, a 20 % increase from 2019. China accounted for nearly half of the world’s installed base of industrial robots in 2020 and it was the only country among the big robot adopters where the number of new installed robots increased. China has been the world’s largest market for industrial robots since 2013. At the end of 2020, China had 940,000 industrial robots in service. With the increasing use of robots in China, the relative number of workers per robot is now almost on par with the US, but still well behind South Korea, which robot-wise is in a league of its own.

China has designated industrial robots as a strategic branch of industry and it has been heavily subsidising both production and R&D efforts e.g. under the Made in China 2025 industrial development plan. Even so, domestic robot models accounted for just 30 % of the Chinese market in 2019. Japanese robot makers, in particular, have achieved a strong position in the Chinese robot market. Japan is the world’s largest exporter of industrial robots and China is its largest export market. Japanese robot manufacturers, as well as robot manufacturers from other countries, have extensive production in China. However, many critical robot parts are still built outside China.

Rapidly risen labour costs have added to the push for automation of production in China. Moreover, fields like electronics that already rely heavily on robots for e.g. microchip production, have only increased their robot intensity. While installation of new robots in China’s car industry has tapered off in recent years, their sheer numbers are still impressive.


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Sources: International Federation of Robotics and BOFIT.

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