In the past five years, 17 Foxconn employees have committed suicide. In 2011, news emerged about a pledge that Foxconn forced their employees to sign, stating that they wouldn’t commit suicide. These occurrences revealed the factories’ harsh working conditions that companies like Apple have greenwashed for years.
On the surface, the average Foxconn employee’s living situation appears similar to that of a college student—dormitories, cafeteria, Internet lounge, etc. In reality, the poor facility conditions greatly pale in comparison to those of a university. Typically, the company crams 8 to a dorm room, and the cafeteria doesn’t maintain a sufficient food supply. A report from mainland China stated that “Foxconn’s labour system is characterized with highly-intensified workload, low payment, violent training, all at the cost of the workers’ dignity.” All employees work involuntary overtime hours and rarely visit home. The average employee works 60 hours per week against Apple policy. They stand for so long that their legs swell. The work is not only tiring, but also unsafe. Foxconn endangers their employees with hazardous chemicals in order to increase production. Article: In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad
The working and living conditions contributed to the suicide threats, but the final straw for many employees dealt with payment. Employees often didn’t get paid for overtime hours, sometimes as punishment. In 2010, 300 employees threatened suicide after being denied raises, quitting, and failing to receive compensation.
From the outsider’s perspective, working for a company like Foxconn might seem unfounded, but for many people in China it is reality. A key component of China’s education system is the Gao Kao Exam, which determines whether a student continues to the university, vocational school, or the work force. The exam presents a major obstacle for students, especially those from more rural impoverished areas without access to the best preparatory schools. Those who fail and can’t afford to pay for further schooling in a country with the most expensive educational system must compete to find work among 1.3 billion people. For them, acquiring jobs at factories like Foxconn presents the best option. Article: Education as a Social Ladder
Articles that I used, but aren’t necessary for class discussion:
Migrant Workers Mistreated (Quote)
“Internal Migrants Moving From Village to City.” Canada and the World. Jan. 2012. Web. 07 Feb. 2012. <http://www.canadaandtheworld.com/internalmigration.html>.