Latest Issue

Will robots spell the end of globalisation?

Once automation takes over, companies will care less about the cost of human labour—and how it varies from country to country. This could encourage some of them to stay put

By Finbarr Livesey  

Industrial robots apply a flame on the rear fender of a VW Golf at a paint shop in the facilities of the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, 23 May 2017. This step is taken before the start of varnishing in order to allow the lacquer to better stick. Volkswagen has since 2010 reduced the amount of water needed for the production of a single Golf car to 1140 liters, mainly through technological advances in the painting process. Volkswagen is a partner in the Open Hybrid Lab Factory in its Wolfsburg facilities, a research and development center with partners from the manufacturing industry such as auto manufacturer Volkswagen, the Fraunhofer Institute, Technological Universities and the Federal Government. Photo: Silas Stein/dpa. Photo: Silas Stein/DPA/PA Images

For many years it has been blindly accepted that countries like the UK and the USA are post-industrial, done with the dirty business of making things and moving into a so-called “weightless economy.” So why are there still factories in Wales making computers, in Germany making running shoes and in the US making planes, trains and automobiles? Why has Walmart committed to spending an extra…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect