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.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • dwave
    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.
  • Azimuth01
    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.
  • bad_code
    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!!!!!
  • bin1127
    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.
  • nforce4max
    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.
  • figgus
    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.
  • etrom
    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.