Foxconn Undercover Report on Working Conditions

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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  • soo-nah-mee
    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.
  • joytech22
    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.
  • webbwbb
    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
  • joytech22
    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.
  • AsianJetlag
    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.
  • Anonymous
    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.