Foxconn, the Chinese industrial giant, has been under the spotlight recently due to a string of suicides supposedly linked to the factory’s awful working conditions. Foxconn is Apple’s main supplier for product manufacturing; it’s the place where our iPhones get made.

A french journalist and photographer, Jordan Pouille, recently revisited a large Foxconn facorty in Longhua, China. His visit was in tandem with a highly publicized pay raise for the factory’s 300,000+ Chinese workers.

While it seems that the living conditions of these young workers (mostly teenagers or young 20-somethings) has improved since Foxconn’s dehumanizing treatment of its employees was brought into the light, something still doesn’t feel right about the way that our gadgets are being made…

Apple is not the only company that uses Foxconn’s manpower to make its products; Sony, Dell, HP and Nokia (just to name a few) are also participants in keeping the production mill of Foxconn operational.

Jordan Pouille painted a disturbed and bleak picture of the living conditions for the next generation of Chinese migrant workers. Foxconn recently raised the wages for its employees significantly, due to a scandalous string of over 14 recent suicides that left the company in PR hell with the rest of the free world.

Jordan Pouille summarizes his opinion on the current state of Foxconn’s living conditions, “Salary is now high, better than any other factory around, but happiness is still not here.”

Pouille chose to include some anecdotal references from his trip to Foxconn,

“Everyday, Xiao Li, 18 years old, wakes up at 6 in the morning in a room where she has be assigned by her manager, with 9 other people, coming from 9 different places. On 6h40, she leaves her room, walks down a long road and arrives at the South gate after a 20 minutes walk. She will buy noodles on her way, like every morning. If she eats at the canteen, she will waste time and sleep less.

In this giant factory outside Shenzhen, Xiao Li and her 300 000 comrades get ready for a 13 hours a working day (excluding lunch break, including overtime), six days a week with a 10 minutes break every two hours. Six days a week is normal in China but it can easily turn to 7 days when sudden customers’ orders come up.

At her production assembly line, which has always been relying on human labour more than sophisticated machines for cost reasons, she is not allowed to speak, listen to music or even look at her comrades while trying to achieve the christmas production targets.

Her mobile is confiscated every morning too, but insults from managers, she says, have disappeared. Instead, they just ignore her, after all the bad publicity they got last spring when 13 Foxconn suicides hit the headlines which blamed the company for harsh management.”

Pouille shares multiple stories like Xioa Li’s, telling how Foxconn’s workers endure 13 hour shifts 6 days a week with only a 10 minute break every two hours, or how a 17 year old girl will be making 28,000 HP ink cartridges a day for the next three years.

According to Pouille, the Foxconn workers never really put up a fight to negotiate about their long hours or working conditions,

“The young foxconn workers are obedient, have almost no previous work experience and they don’t have a clue about what labor rights mean, according to Liu Kaiming, director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation, a labour rights group in Shenzhen. They would never complain, in such an unfriendly environnement where security guards are everywhere: at the dorms, at the recruitement center or at the workshop.”

There also seems to be plenty of authoritative abuse from Foxconn security and management,

“Inside the factory, if you call the police number , you will have great chance to be transfered automatically to the guards phone number. As far as me and my cantonese interpreter were concerned, guards illegaly tried to check my passport and her ID card, and even called the police when we asked them politely to call the media department for us. For sure, Foxconn likes secrecy.”

Foxconn’s human relations department seems to be almost non-existent,

“Fragile Foxcoon workers are supposed to be offered psychological support through a hotline phone number. The calls are not anonymous at all, as you must give your name and the number of your workshop BEFORE telling about your problem… These psychologists are simply other workmates who have been offered this unusual position overnight after a quick book training. This leads to unsolvable situations.”

Pouille tells the specific story of young man who works on the iPhone production line,

“We also met Ling Hui Ping on the way to the factory. He told us he was on the iPhone assembly line. He is coming from Hunan. His parents are crop farmers. At 20h30, after listening politely to his managers comments and criticisms, after cleaning his workshop perimeter, it’s time for this 18 year old boy to rush to his dorm, alone. Because Foxconn city is so big, it can easily take half an hour to get back home. At 21h30, he will only enjoy one hour to empty his head and get a life: calling his family, taking a shower before his dorm lights are turned off.”

Whether you believe that Apple should be supporting a company like Foxconn or not, the state of Foxconn living conditions are obviously troubled.

The small dorms for the workers are barred to prevent more suicide attempts. If that doesn’t paint a bleak enough picture for you, I don’t know what will.

You can continue reading Jordan Pouille’s article on Foxconn’s workers. He has plenty of photography from his trip there as well.

Apple charges what most would deem “exorbitant” prices for their products. I almost understand a company like HP, who sells some of the cheapest computers available, using a production line like Foxconn’s. But Apple? A company that prides itself by putting “Designed by Apple in California” on their products?

If there is any technology company that could afford to stop working with Foxconn, it would seem to be Apple. So, why is Apple supporting the bleak living conditions that Foxconn forces onto its employees?

What can we do about this? If you feel that what Foxconn is doing is wrong, how can you make your voice known? Some would say don’t buy Apple products. What do you say?

  • Spencer

    1st 🙂
    But really…that would suck to have to work in a place like that, apple should stop supporting this company.

    • Taba

      So this article is saying, we shouldn’t buy Sony, Dell, hp and nokia products as well??

  • StanTheMan

    “For The Love Of The World Has Grown Cold”

  • Bob

    Yes they are crap conditions but the suicide rate at the factory is actually less than the national average. The numbers just look large because of the size of the place. I also wonder how many of the workers would prefer back breaking labour farming 16 hours a day for food and board? This is incredibly biased and sensationalistic reporting.

  • Bradibiza

    If you knew how your food was produced, it’s unlikely you would still eat it. The conditions at foxconn seem to be at a high standard for an industrial heavy weight like china.

  • Justabrake

    Seems like prison with a pay check
    I feel for them.

  • Angry

    Apple sucks. So many American companies move industry to China where slavery is legal and because they don’t want to pay an American a living wage.

  • TheWantedMan

    Quit complaining. If the phones were made in the U.S.A., we would be paying $2,000 for it. Nobody is feeling sorry for the Chinese while we are enjoying the cheap prices at China-Mart. Few people recognize the high cost of job losses in America for enjoying such low prices from Chinese imports. What a way to hide inflation. America – Love it or leave it.

    • Actually, the price of the end product has not changed that much from moving labor to low wage countries.
      But the profit for the companies making the stuff has gone up benefiting shareholders.

      Yes moving production back to Western Countries will bring up the price, but not so much because of higher wages, but because the companies will not accept the profit loss.

      Think of how much it actually cost to manufacture the product in China compared to doing the same in US or EU, it is marginally small difference if counting per item.
      But when you move millions of products it makes it big enough to notice.

      The real cost of our electronics are not materials, manufacturing or assembly, it is research and profit.

      Take the iPhone 4 16GB.

      Cost of Materials: $187.51
      http://venturebeat.com/2010/06/28/iphone-4s-costs-are-about-188/

      Cost for US consumer without contract: $599
      http://www.iphonefaq.org/archives/971037

      I could not find manufacturing cost for iPhone4, but the iPhone 3GS was $6.50 so should not differ that much from the iPhone 4.
      http://gizmodo.com/5302080/isuppli-the-iphone-3gs-costs-17896-to-build-4-more-than-previous-model

      So you see it is not the cost of manufacturing that is the expensive part of your phone.

  • David

    I disagree Bob. In the context of a factory that manufactures a product of a brand like apple, which is sold in 1st world countries this should not be happening. What I´m trying to say is that apple has no excuse to have this situation as part of their production chain, not even that the workers from foxconn could be doing worse things like “breaking labour farming 16 hours a day for food and board”.
    This just shows the truth which has always been the same, apple is a corporation which priority is to sell more and get more money so they can be more rich not caring about chinesse workers conditions in this case. I´m doing something that for small it could be I´m hopping its going to make a difference, why not call apple and tell them that we are interested in their products but that we are concerned about the production process?

  • This is disgusting… no words….

  • I mean, *look* at those dormitory’s. It’s a prison. There’s no way those workers can feel good about their jobs and be happy. I know we benefit from cheaper phones, but I’d be willing to pay a bit more to have them have some better working conditions. With the billions of cash on hand Apple has, it just isn’t right… but of course that’s the current condition of the world we live in.

  • this is what “Capitalism” does. destroy entire countries, corrupt their governments so they allow these foreign companies to come and “slave” the people for cheap wages, then bring back the product and sell it at a higher price in the US and thus make shareholders richer and happier. support military coups and so on! this is actually pretty bad :/

    greetings from Honduras, a third world country exploited by the US

  • @Eldaria Very informative comment, thanks for sharing.

    It is a shame that Apple is most likely sticking with Foxconn for profit, not for offering cheaper prices to the user.

  • Steve

    Gives another meaning to the term ‘jailbreak’, doesn’t it?

  • AmpliHelix

    Well aren’t you guys ignorant… Apple isn’t the only company in this. Those Xbox 360s, Nintendo DS, PlayStations, Droids, TVs, even your Macbook or any computer you may be using contains components that were made by these factories.

  • iZomBie3D

    If it keeps the price cheep the go ahead make more phones. We need country like this or everything will cost more money. And I know you don’t have any extra money 😛

  • Polemicist

    I can buy a cheap product direct from Hong Kong or China or I can buy a more expensive product fairly similar but generally better quality made by my own country men and women. I can support companies like Foxconn or I can support the people I live with every day. And what do 98% of us all do? BUY THE CHEAPER ONE…

    This sort of thing has gone on for aeons. We now call them Labour Farms – 20 years ago we called them Sweat Shops – ages ago it was called slave labour … Do you know why slave labour fails? You have to house them and feed them and clothe them and give them medical treatment. So we got smart and pay people minimum wage so they can do that all themselves and they feel like we are setting them free of the shackles of slave labour… LOL… You all brought it on yourself wanting everything cheaper and cheaper… But without those Labour Farms everything goes up in price…

    OK quick observation.

    Eggs…

    You can buy Cage Eggs really cheap – lets say $2.50 for a dozen
    or
    You can buy Free Range Organic for $6.95 for a dozen

    have a look at your eggs and see which ones you bought? Most people who looked will have bought the cheap ones. They don’t care what happens to the chickens all they care about is how much the end product costs.

    Welcome to your reality… Good luck getting out of it…

  • There are two locations with suicides of workers. Foxconn in China and France Telecom in France. Both have the same cause, Subliminal Distraction exposure.

    Forty years ago designers discovered a believed to be harmless problem with human physiology related to the vision startle reflex. Workers using newly designed close-spaced workstations began to have mental breaks. The cubicle was designed to deal with it by 1968. The suicides are happening when a worker has the “harmless episode.” Why? They are all assembly line workers or workers who use deep mental investment to work. There are no janitors or grounds keepers committing suicide.

    Foxconn uses cubicles in office situations but failed to realize that assembly line workers engage enough mental investment to require the same protection. The entire cubicle is not necessary but there should be some peripheral vision blocking scheme between concentrating workers.

    In France they bought modern protected work stations but either installed them incorrectly or altered the correct installation.

    In both cases news video from inside the locations has been posted on YouTube to show this.

    VisionAndPsychosis.Net has the pictures on three pages.

    Fourteen Ontario elementary schools have problems with bizarre symptoms when Wi-Fi was installed. But pictures show school children using laptop computers, sitting in each other’s peripheral vision, without Cubicle Level Protection.

    This is a simple problem. Every one reading this should take precautions with the placement of computers in homes, dorm rooms, and small business offices. Although computer use is the most likely source of exposure today this problem was discovered and solved before they existed.

  • If you are serious and want to stop these suicides write Apple and ask why the information on Subliminal Distraction prevention, Cubicle Level Protection from L K Tucker, VisionAndPsychosis.Net, has not been investigated and forwarded to Foxconn.

    I wrote all three of the involved groups. Only the government of Canada has responded.

    You can see part of my presentation on the “Letters” page at VisionAndPsychosis.Net.

    It would be a simple matter to look at the workplace of the 13 suicides to determine if Subliminal Distraction could have been the cause.

    Changing to three eight hour shifts rather than two twelve hour shifts would spread exposure and lower the probable outcomes.

    Apple
    1 Infinite Loop
    Cupertino, CA 95014
    408.996.1010

  • Name

    Alex approach is a bit naïve. It suggests it’s a nice guy with sorry for the less fortunated ones. Apple is not the monster that it is suggested in this post and some of the comments.

    Capitalism / Society / Mankind is where the trouble starts..

    Is Foxconn and/or its relation to Apple (and alikes) really wrong? In who’s perspective? (culturally speaking?)

    Best regrds

  • Greg

    Hate to say this, but I doubt apple will do anything about foxconns conditions. Sure Apple like many companies started out wanting to make a difference, but as with most of those same companies, it all too quickly became about the money, and then about being the top dog, whi h meant more money, and more following. It’s sad, but as long as a companie’s pocketbook is not affected, what motivation do they have to change? Change brings change, it does not initiate it’s self, and the company will likely not initiate the change, without initiation from an outside source. Who knows, maybe this article will attract enough attention to make a change, as did the article on the eye glasses that single handedly changed Google’s rank algorithm.

  • John

    Simple answer if you care is to buy local! Simple as that, don’t like these conditions, buy from a supplier who is local, or supports your beliefs and ideals. The current thinking is cheaper, faster, better. But should be fair price, local, ethical.

  • Condios

    What’sz the fuzz about? I work 13 hour (and longer) shifts 7 days a week with only a few minutes break every four hours. Then, I work from home and do much unix migration stuff. I get better wages, but life here is much more expensive too. Most americans also have two jobs. OK, I don’t have a social life, but I’ve got great colleagues! I even work today and over the week-end (new year). Someone’s gotta do it 🙂

  • Derrick

    Way more people have it way worse. I’m sure it’s not fun but they don’t HAVE to work there if they don’t want to. Welcome to factories. There are many in the states and other countries that are the same

    Sensationalized to the extreme

    And I know jobless people in America because of the recession who would work there if they could

  • It’s unfortunate that America has never been offered the opportunity to manufacture iPhones or similar electronic devices. We often hear that the Chinese manufactured iPhone we pay $170 for would cost us $500 (or whatever number) if manufactured in the US. We don’t have a clue what the REAL price would be and we never will. Until we all stand up to Apple and Wal-Mart and all of the other multi-nationals manufacturing overseas and dumping cheap junk on our market, we will never know what our real price will be.

    We have met the enemy, and she is us!

  • Inder

    L. K. Tucker has the most valid argument…as also that the BIG ‘WHIGS’ need to learn to be ‘human’ (if tha’s possible in these days of nothing but lucre!!

  • Bob

    I read that Foxconn in China has been considered one of the best companies to work for in China. Yes, some contracted employees only make $250USD a month (some even less), but in China that’s a lot of money for the grassroots. Included meal and roof over their head are the most attractive things in China. Many people in China work 12hrs a day just to have two bowls of rice a day, nothing else. No sweet & sour pork. No wonton. Just plain rice. However, as China moves to the center stage of world economy, worker equality must be considered.