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In 2020, China was tied for the ninth most automated country worldwide with Denmark, with both countries sitting at 246 industrial robots for every 10,000 employees. China’s robotics market saw rapid growth in just five years when it was the 25th most automated country in 2015.
“China was leading the global recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic and accounted for half of worldwide robot installations in 2021,” Marina Bill, President of the International Federation of Robotics, said. “Growth is strong across all industries with electrical and electronics being the dominant sector – up 30% to 81,600 installations. The automotive industry also showed a strong recovery. This was mainly driven by electric vehicle manufacturing in China. It rose by 89% in 2021 with 50,700 installations.”
While China has been rapidly increasing the number of robots at work in the country, many of those robots still come from foreign suppliers, particularly from Japan, South Korea and Europe. In 2020, foreign manufacturers had a combined share of the Chinese robotics market of 73%, according to the IFR.
At the end of 2021, the country unveiled its latest five-year plan for robotics. China’s five-year plans are a series of social and economic development initiatives that have been issued by the Chinese government since 1953.
The document lays out several smaller goals for the Chinese robotics industry before 2025, but the overarching goal is to make China a key source of global robotics innovation. The government also expects the average annual growth rate of operating income in the robotics industry to exceed 20%.
Currently, the number of robot installations by domestic suppliers is rising in China. In 2020, 45,347 units were installed by domestic companies. However, the number of foreign installations is also rising. In 2020, it grew by 24% to 123,030 units, according to the IFR.
In June, the country’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security announced 18 new professions, including “robotics engineering technician.” The profession will focus on the research and development of control algorithms and operating systems for robots, as well as the use of digital simulation technology.
“China still has high potential for further growth,” Bill said. “The country’s robot density in the manufacturing industry amounts to 246 industrial robots per 10,000 employees thus ranking ninth worldwide in 2020. Ten years ago, China´s robot density was 15 units only.”
China’s aging population’s demographics have also caused a shortage in labor and further driven the demand for robotic automation.