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Semiconductor shortage: why could this impact our daily lives?

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Smartphones, computers, consoles, cars … So many objects of our daily life operate thanks to semiconductors, small electronic chips whose stocks are drastically decreasing on the world market

They are essential for the proper functioning of many electronic devices: semiconductors, small electronic chips of only a few nanometers, face a risk of shortage throughout the world.

And for several months now, many production sectors have been affected: Apple has had to delay its iPhone 12, the Playstation 5s are rare and several car manufacturers have been forced to slow down their production. As stocks continue to decline, Europe, dependent on Asian suppliers, is worried.

The demands exploded

These semiconductors are present in billions of electronic devices, recalls the newspaper “Les Échos”. We find these chips especially in our smartphones: “The smartphone today represents 30% of semiconductor sales in the world, on par with the PC and server market.”, Specifies Europe 1. Semiconductors are also present in the consoles, and are necessary for the proper functioning of the 5G network currently deployed.

So many electronic objects that recorded sales records during the year 2000, due to the many confinements around the world. We had to have fun at home or even equip ourselves to work from home. Orders from suppliers exploded and factories, already weakened by a conflict between China and the United States, began to saturate.

Since early 2021, the automotive sector has also been affected, according to “Les Échos”. Suppliers prioritize the more profitable telephony sector. As a result, many manufacturers such as Ford, PSA, Toyota, Nissan Renault, etc., had to slow down or even stop their production.

Asian addiction

Moreover, increasing the production of these semiconductors is not easy. As Europe 1 explains, “it takes about four months to produce a batch of chips and 200 to 300 operations to transform the raw material, silicon, into a concentrate of technology.”

Moreover, few companies in the world have the technology, the budget and the know-how to produce these components. The world market leader, the TMSC foundry, is Taiwanese. A subject that has put back on the table the dependence of Western countries on Asian producers. Today, Taiwan, South Korea, China and Japan together account for 70% of the market. Europe weighs 9%, just behind the United States (12%), recalls Europe 1.

In an attempt to resolve this problem, the US government is planning to intervene quickly. President Joe Biden is due to sign an executive order “within the next few weeks” ordering a “comprehensive review of supply chains for essential goods.”

In Europe, the French and German economy ministers announced on Monday the launch of a project of common European interest on electronics “in order to strengthen Europe’s production capacities”. “Our dependence on Asia is ‘excessive and unacceptable’, said Bruno Le Maire.

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