If you were to ask someone what they thought of Foxconn today, chances are their response would be negative. And for good reason. Over the past few years, we’ve heard horror stories about the manufacturing giant regarding terrible working conditions and child labor, and we’ve seen the pictures of the windows with prison bars and the suicide nets.
And that’s exactly the kind of scene James Fallows, a journalist for The Atlantic, prepared himself for, as he set out on a tour of Foxconn’s famous Shenzhen campus. He was ready to see the dark, depressing work environment and the somber, joyless employees that he had read so much about in other reports. But it didn’t go at all how he expected…
This past Thursday, Fallows was given an opportunity to do something that very few other journalists have been allowed to do: go beyond Foxconn’s security gates. He was given one simple pre-condition, that he couldn’t mention any of the brands of the electronics he saw, and was given full access to the Shenzhen campus with permission to take photos.
Foxconn employee cyber cafe
The whole article is an interesting read, but this is the part that really stuck out:
“But what I saw once inside the gate was very different from the picture that “Foxconn” had always conjured up in my mind. I’ll plan to post a series of photos day by day until I’ve conveyed the range of what I saw. If scenes like these conform closely to how you had imagined Foxconn to look, congrats on your insight. They surprised me.”
And reading through Fallow’s recollection of the tour, and looking at the pictures he took (which he points out were neither scripted nor pre-approved), I have to say that I too, am surprised. My mental image of Foxconn was much, much darker than what is conveyed in this report. Here it almost seems like your average factory. Just a lot bigger.
Inside Foxconn’s staff care center
That being said, Foxconn has been found guilty of a number of workplace-related violations over the years. And I’m not naive enough to think that Foxconn managers didn’t make some kind of “journalist is coming today, be on your best behavior” announcement. But still, the article did change my perspective a bit on the infamous manufacturer.