ABC’s 25 minute documentary ‘A Trip to the iFactory‘ just aired on Nightline, where correspondent Bill Weir traveled to Foxconn for the world’s first full view of the operation inside. For those unfamiliar, Foxconn is the factory where Apple’s and other top brands’, products are manufactured.

In recent years, the Shenzhen, China based Foxconn has had a negative vibe in the public’s view. People have viewed Foxconn as exploiting workers, hiring people underage, and causing workers to become so depressed they commit suicide.

ABC was granted the first inside look at the factory, showing working and living conditions workers are under to produce our favorite Apple products. But did the way ABC portrayed Foxconn match public perception, or did it bring a whole different view (spoiler alert)?

As the program begun Bill Weir was quick to disclose the ties ABC has with Apple. ABC’s parent company is Disney, and not only is their CEO Bob Iger on Apple’s board, but Steve Job’s trust is the single largest shareholder. Weir tried to instill there wouldn’t be any biasedness.

The documentary begun with Bill Weir entering the Foxconn gates, guided by Foxconn execs. I instantly got the feeling that this place was run like a large city, because it really is. With over 1 million workers there has to be restaurants, stores, and more, for workers to enjoy themselves after long shifts.

Weir was told he was able to talk to any employee, at any time. Many employees told Weir about life at Foxconn. One employee complained about the trees blocking the dorms that didn’t let enough sunlight in, while even more complained about low wages. When Foxconn’s CEO was asked about low wages, he said he’d love to raise them. Which recently, Foxconn already did.

The documentary gave a real sense to how the production lines are at Foxconn. There’s nothing automated and workers are doing most of the work by hand. For example, it takes 141 production steps for one given Apple product (I didn’t catch which). Also, in a given day there can be 300,000 camera chips manufactured for the iPad. Foxconn literally churns out products.

To keep up with demand, Foxconn has to keep their production lines staffed at all times. ABC taped one Monday morning, as 3,000 Chinese citizens rushed through the gates at Foxconn in hopes of getting a job. A shocking 80% on average are hired.

When a prospective employee was asked about the suicides at Foxconn, she responded with, “it’s not really the company’s fault.”

While working at Foxconn, workers also stay in the dormitories. Suicide nets line every single building, after there were a string of 17 suicides in 2010. Apple’s then-COO Tim Cook brought together a group of social workers to help fix the problem. Interestingly, Foxconn’s suicide rate is lower than the rest of China.

Speaking to one worker about the overall atmosphere, he told Weir that it was equivalent to college life in the United States. Meals are expensive and everything is crowded.

When the production crew went out into the villages surrounding Foxconn, you could tell that people inside the plant really seemed to be better off. Living conditions ultimately felt more comfortable on the inside.

So how did ABC overall portray Foxconn?

I’ve never worked in a factory, and certainly hope I’m lucky enough not to have to. With that said, conditions in Foxconn didn’t seem as awful as I perceived them to be. Assembly lines seemed cleaned, and compared to the rest of manufacturing in China, these workers seemed to be better off. Foxconn is giving workers a lot better life than many other parts of China.

So you think ABC might be biased? Luckily, the Fair Labor Association will be publishing their report in a few weeks, perhaps giving a truly unbiased view on working conditions.

Overall, it made Apple look like they were working their hardest to give employees the best situation possible.

The ‘A Trip to the iFactory’ will continue to air at 11:35 PM in respective time zones. ABC will most likely post the video online tomorrow.

For those who have already seen it: did the documentary change your view on Foxconn?

  • Video is already on YouTube. Good article.

  • It must not be that bad they have that many people waiting outside just hoping to get a job there.

    • it’s china. not to put you down, but learn about china. you’ll understand quickly why people are willing to cross the country to work there living far from their families and living in such small crammed rooms. ive lived there for a short stint and china is nothing like the west.

      • Anonymous

        its china indeed, thats why i find stupid that they complain about work conditions(specially foxconn), they literally beg to be slaves. this is nothing but hype

      • Joshua Rawlings

        I’m not understanding how you are putting him down. I also believe that you are fully corroborating vantheman420 statement.

  • Increase wages… Instant fix to many problems. I still dislike the hell out of Foxconn. There are no robots on the assembly line? My ass! They’re slowly turning those people into robots. Only $2 an hour for 60 hours a week??? ugh…

  • Increase wages… Instant fix to many problems. I still dislike the hell out of Foxconn. There are no robots on the assembly line? My ass! They’re slowly turning those people into robots. Only $2 an hour for 60 hours a week??? ugh…

    • Anonymous

      Foxconn is looking to automate with robots as much of the assembly as possible going forward, partly due to the attention / pay raises. Ironic that the humanitarian desire to help the workers will ultimately cost them their jobs

  • how long is the full video ?

    • José Ricardo Oña

      25 min. does anyone have the link to the full video? thanks

      • Looking for the link myself. If I find one I will let you know.

  • “When the production crew went out into the villages surrounding Foxconn, you could tell that people inside the plant really seemed to be _better off_. Living conditions ultimately felt more comfortable on the _outside_.”

    ..what?

    • Anonymous

      Also: “Weir tried to instill there wouldn’t be any unbiasedness,” which means Weir said he WILL be biased.

    • Thank you. Corrected.

  • Anonymous

    “With that said, conditions in Foxconn didn’t seem as awful as I perceived them to be. Assembly lines seemed cleaned, and compared to the rest of manufacturing in China, these workers seemed to be better off. Foxconn is giving workers a lot better life than many other parts of China.”

    Before agreeing with your asset, I think we need to also compare the profits generated by “the rest of manufacturing in China” to make sure it is correct, imo

    • Anonymous

      edit: assessment

  • Anonymous

    Some people on here are comical, they are all for the improved working conditions for the Chinese but fail to acknowledge that peoples values and ideals in the west are hugely different. So what, the Chinese work for less and don’t have the conditions we have but that’s their choice, it’s for the Government to sort out not for the west, who I might add, seem to think that anyone who doesn’t live, think, act the same way as us should be brought into line … The west can’t help but meddle in everything that has nothing to do with them, the UK and the US in particular should get their own houses in order before telling others what to do and as for you guys who are all for these improved conditions, enjoy paying for the already overpriced Apple products because any cost increases will be passed straight onto you, that’s the bottom line.

  • Anonymous

    Some of the comments in this thread as well as most concerning this topic are so cold and callous. My feeling is if this were on American soil with the exact same conditions the opinions would be quite different.

    • Yes but it’s not in America, I do think people genuinely feel bad for them but like others have said their way of life is much different than America and so is their government. Not that we can’t try to help make things a little better but it’s up to China itself to make things better not Apple. Their government needs to stand up for their own people and the environment, China will most likely pay a worst cost down the road with bad health issues from their lack of environmental control. But that is a cost I guess they are willing to pay to be a world leader, it’s all about the export to make the dollars.

    • Agreed 100%!

  • The video made me cry it truly is a horrible place to work and apple knows that the only reason they have billions of dollars in their honeypot is off the backs of chinas children and to even dare say It was clean and they are better off is truly arrogant and unsympathetic of you.
    Would you want your child to spend his or her days there toiling to make products that he/she couldn’t even afford to purchase themselves for pennies I sure as hell wouldn’t!

    • Steven Randolph

      First off they feed there whole family with that salary 2nd all the companys have there stuff made at foxcon not just apple and if apple would do it here apple would be out of buisness

  • Steven Randolph

    I watched it and if they want those jobs at that salary then IMO it must be pretty good for that part of the world

    I think its gruelling work to do repetively over and over and mind bogelling with all that machine noise and run like a robot farm

    I guess the 18 that jumped to their deaths thought life had no meaning if they had to do that for a living They must of felth like caged farm animals waiting for a guiliteen

  • Being an Apple fan it pains me to say, that documentary couldn’t have been more full of ish. I mean, he told us at the beginning of about the conflict of interest and add insult to injury, Apple paid for the FLA’s audit, I mean, c’mon guys. Let’s be real, at the end of the day, Apple is a corporation. Corporation cover things up. Plan and simple. I do however believe that Apple is making real progress in improving the factories but I can’t believe the real Foxconn is like anything we saw last night.

  • Joshua Rawlings

    Are they forced to work there?

  • “APPLE SOLD IT FOR Over 560$
    This makes an Profit of 375 $ FOR EACH IPHONE!!!!!”

    so you believe the raw costs to manufacture a product is all that goes behind that product? you are a fool if you believe thats all there is to it! that is the cost at Foxconn alone, apple at their end are double than that!

    look at apple financial reports, profit margins are about 30% which is normal for any company considering they work effectively! and apple works very effectively compared to other companies that manufacture 60 phones per year! apple only does 1 phone per year!

  • Winski

    This was a 17 minute exposé on how little Americans, even it’s alleged ‘experienced’ news readers, know about anything outside their own zip code. More so, don’t seem to care.

    Truly stupid and myopic people.

  • Winski

    This was a 17 minute exposé on how little Americans, even it’s alleged ‘experienced’ news readers, know about anything outside their own zip code. More so, don’t seem to care.

    Truly stupid and myopic people.

  • Javier Gore

    What a circus show. I don’t eat anything I see in this video. Workers seem to be working relaxed, somewhat “happy”. There are no underage workers either (iDB just published an article about workers claiming Foxcoon hid them). The FLA auditor agrees that Foxconn was notified about the audit and are showing what auditors want to see. Why the f*ck is the auditor taking all that made up show so naturally instead of proposing a more radical and surprising no-notice visit ?. And also, when the interviewer asks Louis Woo how would he feel if Apple comes and say “we are doing so great that we’ll put money so every worker is better paid” Louis hypocritically agrees insulting the audience viewing this documentary. If Foxconn rapidly doubled their worker’s salary, it’s no wonder that Foxconn is making HUGE profits by exploiting those souls. Salary raise should come out of Foxconn’s pockets not Apple’s.