Adidas, the German maker of sportswear and equipment, is moving back to Germany after shifting its operations to Asia for cheap labor. However, wages are increasing even in Asia so Adidas has found workers even cheaper: robots. Adidas will be making shoes again in Germany by 2017 but will employ relatively few actual Germans.
It has been 20 years since Adidas moved its factories to Asia. Now the shoes will be made in the new prototype “Speedfactory” in Ansbach, southern Germany. It is likely to be a scene repeated in the future as humans are replaced by robots in manufacturing and service industries.
The implications of the trend are chilling. The price of goods may indeed fall and improve but it also suggests a huge segment of the population that will become increasingly obsolete and locked into the lowest income bracket. That will force the current income inequalities to even more extreme levels.