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Foxconn Undercover Report on Working Conditions

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 51 comments

An inside story.

It's no secret that working conditions at the Chinese factories that produce our beloved electronic goods are ones that we would deem in our western culture as unacceptable, but such is life for those at a Foxconn factory that makes products for Apple, Intel, Dell, HP and other computer companies.

Chinese newspaper Southern Weekend sent in 22-year-old undercover reporter Liu Zhiyi to work at Foxconn for 28 days to learn what it's like for workers at the factory.

Engadget has published a human-translated version of the three-part report. Here are a few clips from the telling story.

Their most sumptuous day is the 10th each month -- pay day. That day, all the ATMs and themed restaurants are packed with long lines, and consequently the ATMs are often drawn empty. The salary's made up of the ¥900 ($132) local minimum wage and the variable overtime pay.

Each employee would sign a "voluntary overtime affidavit," in order to waive the 36-hour legal limit on your monthly overtime hours. This isn't a bad thing, though, as many workers think that only factories that offer more overtime are "good factories," because "without overtime, you can hardly make a living." For the workers desperate for making money, overtime is like "a pain that can breathe:" without it, the days without money make them "suffocate;" with it, the restless work would only add more "pain" to the body, thus aging quicker. Most of the time they staunchly choose the latter, but even the right to choose such isn't available to all. Only those with the seniors' "trust," with good connections, or those in key positions, can often get to work overtime.

[…]

When chatting with them, I often struggled to respond, as I felt I was ridiculously fortunate. They actually envied those who could take a leave due to work injury, while casually joking about how their station's been toxicated. When talking about their colleagues' suicidal jumps, there was often a surprisingly calm reaction, and sometimes even a banter would be made about it, as if they were all outsiders.

[…]

If you ask the workers what their dream is, you'll often get the same answer: start a business, make money, get rich, and then you can do whatever you want. In the warehouse, they humorously name their hydraulic trolleys "BMWs." They, of course, would rather own actual BMWs, or at least "BMW" kind of wealth.

Here is a translated news report detailing the recent problems at Foxconn.

Foxconn Suicides

Foxconn Suicides

Foxconn Suicides

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    soo-nah-mee , May 21, 2010 12:53 PM
    Anyone else sick of hearing terms like "liberal" and "conservative" and "illegal aliens" come into this type of discussion? This isn't about political affiliation; it's about how people are treated. It's like people use this type of thing to remind themselves and others that they consider themselves part of a group, and their group is always right.

    The simple fact is we wouldn't be able to buy all of the cool high-tech gadgets we love if it weren't for them being manufactured cheaply in other countries. So we conveniently forgot about how the product is made when we bring it home and play with it. That's just the way it is. If the way the people that make your products are treated bothers you, then don't buy the products.

    The world and humanity can be ugly. Americans and Europeans have it made in comparison to most of the world. Anything less or different than what we see every day is considered by many to be wrong. It’s just different. Most of all, it’s just the way it is! What are you going to do about it? Whining doesn’t help.
  • 14 Hide
    joytech22 , May 21, 2010 11:17 AM
    Honestly very sad that any job would force such hardship on it's workers, these are people we're talking about that are fighting for resources in a Very crowded area, at least some of them keep their spirits and dreams alive.
  • 13 Hide
    webbwbb , May 21, 2010 1:53 PM
    Bad_code, the reason you are being marked down is that this is a tech site talking about tech news to computer techs. Yes some of us who are highly into politics (myself included) but this is not really the place for that. It is obvious that you have an agenda in your posts since you are constantly trying to draw attention to them and complain about being voted down for off topic posts (trolling). Keep in mind that this site has thousands if not millions of readers who are not in the US and that things about our politics must be incredibly annoying for them.
Other Comments
  • 14 Hide
    joytech22 , May 21, 2010 11:17 AM
    Honestly very sad that any job would force such hardship on it's workers, these are people we're talking about that are fighting for resources in a Very crowded area, at least some of them keep their spirits and dreams alive.
  • 3 Hide
    AsianJetlag , May 21, 2010 11:22 AM
    Even with Purchasing Power Parity considered, $132 per month is still pretty little.

    But then again, this is expected. Even a $5 increase per month in min. wage is HUGE for a country with 1.3 billion people, and these workers are the ones who weren't smart enough to get through high school/get into university.

    This applies to most other developing Asian countries, which is still considerably better than conditions in some Middle Eastern/Eastern Europe/African countries.
  • 8 Hide
    Anonymous , May 21, 2010 11:32 AM
    Europeans and Americans should boycott cheap labor everywhere. Until the people of Mexico, China, etc... can grow a pair, and demand decent living conditions in their country, we shouldn't be enriching their countries.

    Cheap labor is the contemporary slavery. Whenever immigration reform is discussed in America, the conservatives say "well, who's going to pick your strawberries for $4/hr, the prices of fruits and vegetables will skyrocket". You know, I'm sure the proponents of slavery said the same thing, and if memory serves, the economy didn't collapse when we ended slavery.
  • -2 Hide
    dwave , May 21, 2010 11:47 AM
    The conservatives don't say " well, who's going to pick your strawberries for $4/hr" the liberals do. I am conservative and I say get the illegals out of here.
  • 3 Hide
    Azimuth01 , May 21, 2010 11:58 AM
    People say that these conditions are unbearable and horrible, yet these same people run out and purchase the cheapest TV they can find then brag about the deal they got. If people really believe that things need to change, stop buying their goods with a smile.
  • -7 Hide
    bad_code , May 21, 2010 12:00 PM
    cheap-laborConservative's point about everything else is good and I think even the conservatives did want them to stay in our country. The Department of Labor wants them and so do other institutions which lobby for keeping them in using our bail out money. IBM also uses foxconn. Its all about cheap labor and more profit. Not lower prices. Just more profit. All the skills are leaving our country too. Not just the jobs. That's both liberal and conservatives. But conservatives give these business tax breaks for shipping jobs over seas. Oh yeah, your tax dollars are paying to get rid of you job. GO REPUBLICANS!!!!!
  • 12 Hide
    bin1127 , May 21, 2010 12:05 PM
    why don't we just build our own stuff? everyone in NA or Europe wants every gadget for pennies but wouldn't lift a single finger to actually make it themselves. Let those factory kids go to school instead of slaving all day so you can have your iCrap.
  • -4 Hide
    nforce4max , May 21, 2010 12:08 PM
    The first solution to problems like this is tariffs. The second is get rid of those who run these slave factories and the mercantile systems in the US and Europe.
  • 0 Hide
    figgus , May 21, 2010 12:27 PM
    If things keep going like they are, those workers will be luckier than their US counterparts because at least they have jobs. America is making it far too costly to manufacture anything in that country.
  • 5 Hide
    etrom , May 21, 2010 12:29 PM
    AsianJetlagand these workers are the ones who weren't smart enough to get through high school/get into university.


    I disagree. In most cases, those people have to quit the school due to financial problems/need to help their parents who don't have enough cash to feed the whole family.
  • -7 Hide
    bad_code , May 21, 2010 12:32 PM
    I got a minus 2. Why don't people like reality? People are blind to what is really going on in our country? What's wrong with that. Truth hurts?
  • 2 Hide
    figgus , May 21, 2010 12:40 PM
    bad_codeI got a minus 2. Why don't people like reality? People are blind to what is really going on in our country? What's wrong with that. Truth hurts?


    That's funny, I think you got marked down for being wrong. There was very little reality in your statement.
  • 3 Hide
    cscott_it , May 21, 2010 12:50 PM
    I guess this is the free market will fix itself, right?

    Well, untill you get countries that will purposely devaluate their own currency to gain a huge share of world manufacturing, take huge sacrifices from their citizens in attempt to "modernize" their country, and then allow minimal rights to the afforementioned citizens.

    Maybe I'm just jaded from the insane profit margins as a byproduct of overseas manufacturing. It's boggling sometimes. On a lighter note, at least foxconn has tried to rectify the problem by bringing in a priest to do exercisms and set up an agression room.

    Oh wait....
  • 15 Hide
    soo-nah-mee , May 21, 2010 12:53 PM
    Anyone else sick of hearing terms like "liberal" and "conservative" and "illegal aliens" come into this type of discussion? This isn't about political affiliation; it's about how people are treated. It's like people use this type of thing to remind themselves and others that they consider themselves part of a group, and their group is always right.

    The simple fact is we wouldn't be able to buy all of the cool high-tech gadgets we love if it weren't for them being manufactured cheaply in other countries. So we conveniently forgot about how the product is made when we bring it home and play with it. That's just the way it is. If the way the people that make your products are treated bothers you, then don't buy the products.

    The world and humanity can be ugly. Americans and Europeans have it made in comparison to most of the world. Anything less or different than what we see every day is considered by many to be wrong. It’s just different. Most of all, it’s just the way it is! What are you going to do about it? Whining doesn’t help.
  • -5 Hide
    bad_code , May 21, 2010 12:55 PM
    figgusThat's funny, I think you got marked down for being wrong. There was very little reality in your statement.


    Show me what's wrong. All talk no action.
  • -4 Hide
    bad_code , May 21, 2010 12:58 PM
    I bet others have marked me down to for other things they thought were wrong like the fact that IBM developed the cell processor for the PS3.
  • 2 Hide
    tommysch , May 21, 2010 1:11 PM
    joytech22Honestly very sad that any job would force such hardship on it's workers, these are people we're talking about that are fighting for resources in a Very crowded area, at least some of them keep their spirits and dreams alive.


    That country was almost 100% third world in the 1980s. So it isn't that bad when you consider OUR working conditions in the industrial revolution. Nothing is free in this world. Hard work is much better then starvation, unemployment, civil wars and epidemics.

    Don't fool yourself, China is tomorrows enemy.
  • -9 Hide
    bad_code , May 21, 2010 1:12 PM
    LOL no way people think sony created the cell procssor ? TOO FUNNY!!!
  • -1 Hide
    tommysch , May 21, 2010 1:12 PM
    Azimuth01People say that these conditions are unbearable and horrible, yet these same people run out and purchase the cheapest TV they can find then brag about the deal they got. If people really believe that things need to change, stop buying their goods with a smile.


    We should stop importing from China, not because it would help them but because it would help us.
  • 6 Hide
    aeurix , May 21, 2010 1:25 PM
    Fools... In condemning this 'sweatshop' labor you fail to realize two things: By paying them these low wages, we are actually making them relatively well off compared to their average worker. If they didn't have this employment, they would likely be unemployed, which is far worse. We are effectively bringing up their quality of life... Secondly, if you condemn this comparative advantage, you are begging for high electronic costs, clothing costs, and any other non perishable goods.

    None of these employees are held at gunpoint, all of which actively seek employment with the company. Stop 'thinking with your heart' and try to reason it out with economic logic. If they didn't think the tradeoff was fair, they wouldn't be there.
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