A recent expose by a state-run news agency in China revealed that approximately one in six workers at electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn had been physically abused by their employer. Foxconn, a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, responded quickly, saying the employees were lying and that its working atmosphere was “positive”.
How “positive” that atmosphere really is has been brought into question yet again as yet another young employee has died in what appears to be a suicide. The 23-year-old male was found dead outside a dormitory early on Friday.
Previously this year there had been 13 confirmed suicides at Foxconn’s Chinese factories. Despite China’s high suicide rate, the suicides are unusual. Most suicides in China occur among older rural residents — heavily older rural females. The Foxconn deaths though have been largely young males, living in an urban setting — a demographic that has a much lower average suicide rate.
Employees interviewed by multiple Chinese news organizations report abuse and hellish working conditions. The government is growing increasingly frustrated with Foxconn as they feel the company is casting the nation in a negative light and that the suicides may be caused by the poor conditions at the plants.
Other employees have died under questionable circumstances and may have committed suicide as well. At least one employee is thought to have been worked to death.
Foxconn commands a lot of power in the electronics industry, though. It is the primary manufacturer for Apple, Inc. making the company’s popular iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Mac computers. The company also makes hardware for Dell, HP, Microsoft, Nintendo, and more. If you walk into a Best Buy store’s electronics section it is a fair bet that the majority of products were at least partially assembled by Foxconn.
Despite the reportedly sweat-shop working conditions many young people have journey to Foxconn’s massive factory towns that house hundreds of thousands of workers, lured by the promise of steady income and higher wages. When they get there, though, many become homesick and bemoan the lack of promised raises.
Foxconn promised to give its employees a big raise to curb suicides and possibly move employees to midwest China, closer to its workers’ homes. According to investigative reports it has done neither.
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