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Foxconn employees endure hellish working conditions to earn a tiny wage for building Apple's iPads, iPods, and iPhones.  (Source: Southern Weekly)

The conditions are so bad, some employees have taken their own lives. Foxconn has created the "stress room", a place where emloyees can be away their rage and frustration, in hopes of decreasing the suicide rate.  (Source: Southern Weekly)
Apple's parts supplier Foxconn faces more controversy

Last time a reporter tried to penetrate Apple's veil of secrecy, security guards employed by their parts supplier, Foxconn, beat up the reporters involved.  But questions had to be answered in the wake of the suicide/potential murder of a Foxconn employee which occurred after the employee lost an iPhone prototype.

Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly was determined to find out the true story, and sent a reporter in undercover, posing as a new employee.  Given the fact that Foxconn's Shenzen plant that builds Apple's iPads, iPods, and iPhones has 400,000 employees, that part wasn't too hard.

What was hard, was for the reporter to endure the plant's reportedly hellish working conditions for 28 days. 

So far in the last four and a half months seven workers from the plant have committed suicide, and at least 9 have attempted suicide.  According to reporter Liu Zhi Yi who infiltrated the plant, the likely reason why was that they felt taking their own life was the only option to escape the hellish working conditions of the plant.

According to Liu, the plant makes employees work around the clock, only pausing briefly to eat or sleep.  Most of the time the employees are standing, seldom able to sit down and rest their weary legs.  This is perfectly legal, as employees are required to sign a special overtime document that override Chinese workplace laws and essentially allows the employer to demand whatever hours they want from you, without additional compensation.

Foxconn pays the workers far too little for them to hope to buy one of the Apple products they assemble.  It pays them only 900 Chinese Yuan a month —about $130 USD.  Still the workers have dreams.  They joke that their carts that they haul Apple materials on are "BMWs", dreaming of real BMWs.  They buy lottery tickets and bet on horse races in hopes of miraculously being handed an escape from their purgatory.

But for most, they will live out their lives slaving away to build Apple's products, constantly in danger, while earning only a pittance.  So, according to the newspaper there's little surprise some employees fall into deep despair.

Foxconn at the request of Apple and Chinese state officials has made some steps to decrease the suicide rates.  It's hired counselors and given workers dummies to beat on to vent their rage.  And it's even been so kind as to hire Buddhist monks to allow the souls of those who committed to suicide to escape purgatory.

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By lifewatcher on 5/19/2010 5:30:37 PM , Rating: 5
If that's the cost of labor in China, regardless of all other expenses, no iPhone should cost $600. If I'm wrong, it would be interesting to find out how much that deice would cost, if manufactured here in the US.
This rant of mine has nothing to do with suicides in China, but with corporate greed. I bet Apple will have far thinner profit margins on their devices, had they be made here. Such scenario, however, will mean better regulated work environment for everyone involved, thus better night-sleep for Steve. I can't imagine going to bed at night with a smile on my mug, knowing that I'm profiting from sweatshops.
Before declaring war on porn, this wacko should declare war on labor exploitation.

RE: Price
By lightfoot on 5/19/2010 6:14:32 PM , Rating: 5
Don't worry, I'm sure Steve Jobs is not losing any sleep over this.

RE: Price
By stimudent on 5/20/2010 8:59:21 AM , Rating: 5
Steve Jobs - the new Big Brother to replace the one in the 1984 Apple commercial.

RE: Price
By hyvonen on 5/19/2010 7:58:13 PM , Rating: 5
Market decides.

Would you rather buy an iPhone for $100 that's made by Foxconn, or an identical one for $200 that's made by your friendly neighborhood cell phone factory?

Or, which one would you pick: an iPhone that costs $200 because it's made in the U.S., or the pretty Android phone that's only $100 because it's made in China?

Market decides; people can whine about human rights and atrocities, but the fact remains that your own dollars matter to you more.

RE: Price
By xaders on 5/19/2010 9:49:23 PM , Rating: 2
yes, market decides but would you will be pay more then $1000 for a phone!!! macbook start at $999.
if you buy the iphone with contract then it cost $199 and that already enough to pay off the cost of materials. but if you buy it without contract, it would cost $500+ depending on size. usually, apple product has high margin because they control both hardware and software so dont forget about R&D. there is millions of dollars invest in any prototype device that comes to market and final product.

dont forget, in china, there isnt much laws to protect workers unlike the USA, and europe. so, have to work around the clock for 7 days and more the 120 hours a week, so that apple fanboy can get the iphones on time.

RE: Price
By afkrotch on 5/20/2010 12:15:19 AM , Rating: 2
China has laws to protect workers. It's just, they have a waiver you can sign, to take away your protection. They sign to get the job. If they don't sign, they don't get the job.

RE: Price
By bupkus on 5/20/2010 11:59:07 AM , Rating: 5
So private contracts supersede national law... in China?
When pigs fly! This is Chinese leadership being paid off to exploit their own people.
Me thinks China is due for another revolution.

RE: Price
By hans007 on 5/19/2010 10:27:45 PM , Rating: 1
labor cost is a miniscule amount of the cost of the phone though.

if they paid theworkers twice as much, they probably would only have to raisse the price of the phone by maybe $5.

Mexican plants pay workers maybe $1-2 an hour (vs $130 a month for the chinese plant), and their costs are generally competitive given they benefit from nafta etc.

For example to build your basic PC assembled on an assembly line only takes about 10-15 min.

I worked summers at a hewlett packard plant in the 90s when they were still in southern california for some tings, and 15 minutes at $10 an hour, vs 10 cents an hour is what $2.50

It doesn't take 10 hours to assemble a phone. The same applies to cars, which is why a $20k car has maybe $1000 in labor costs if not less.

materials are the main cost and r&d.

The only reason companies go to china labor is that miniscule extra amount of say $5 per phone. It would be say $5 x 1 million iphones, so 2 million dollars.

RE: Price
By 7Enigma on 5/20/2010 8:10:43 AM , Rating: 5
Oh woe is the California education system:

"It would be say $5 x 1 million iphones, so 2 million dollars."

RE: Price
By hyvonen on 5/20/2010 11:05:08 AM , Rating: 2
Should I even respond to that...?

The workforce costs at that Foxconn facility is probably a tiny portion of the total costs (that includes land/building/electricity/etc.), and I'm sure they want margin, too. It's not as cheap as you'd think.

Of course, the situation is far worse in the US, what with extra social security and other taxes, health care costs, higher cost of land/energy... Even though you made $10/h, you can bet the cost of your labor was much higher for HP.

RE: Price
By JustTom on 5/24/2010 11:20:40 AM , Rating: 2
Labor costs to build most cars is significantly higher than 1K, at least if you are talking about the US. Costs to GM were $73/hr, labor costs are over 2K per car on average. Maybe you meant wages which are only a part of labor costs.

RE: Price
By bupkus on 5/20/2010 11:54:35 AM , Rating: 2
You people actually gave a 5 to a position that supports labor exploitation? Or are you supportive, no matter what the results, of market driven forces?
And may I quote you
people can whine about human rights and atrocities
I am horrified by what appears to be a new generation of market driven monsters!
And what sense does it make to say
Or, which one would you pick: an iPhone that costs $200 because it's made in the U.S., or the pretty Android phone that's only $100 because it's made in China?
Do we have reports of Android phones assembled by laborers working under such abysmal conditions or are these just reports from Apple haters ???
Yes, I have an online business that originally was supplied by products manufactured in China. I need to resupply but I cannot bring myself to do so with China's ugly human rights record. I will go out of business within a year and it will cost me much more than $100 for a gd damn phone!

My stomach turns and I am so angry to read such lack of concern for HUMAN BEINGS.

RE: Price
By lightfoot on 5/20/2010 12:13:57 PM , Rating: 2
These people are not slaves. There is huge competition for these jobs, because they are considered very good jobs.

The only reason people feel trapped in this type of job is simply because there aren't any better jobs available to them.

If they want to leave they can leave.

RE: Price
By Motoman on 5/20/10, Rating: 0
RE: Price
By Josh7289 on 5/24/2010 1:07:52 PM , Rating: 2
If they want to leave they can leave.

And where are they going to get that money? They're stuck.

RE: Price
By hyvonen on 5/22/2010 4:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, but you misunderstood. I was pointing out that a lot of people seem to be hypocrites when complaining about labor abuses, but still choosing to buy the cheap stuff that was made with cheap, abused labor.

I wasn't stating my own view about labor abuses. I personally tend to buy local, even if it's more expensive. When it comes to electronics, though, I don't really have those options, because they are ALL made in China/Taiwan. Why is this? Because the market has spoken; the market wants cheap stuff, regardless of who made it.

RE: Price
By rcc on 5/20/2010 2:17:49 PM , Rating: 2
Because, of course, Foxconn/Apples factory is the only one in China run like this?

Not that that makes it right, but this is a societal problem, dinging Apple for it is convenient... but that's about it.

RE: Price
By Motoman on 5/20/2010 2:48:55 PM , Rating: 2
True. Every company with similar factories in China (or who deals with suppliers with such factories in China) deserves the same mocking.

It's particularly ironic for Apple with it's (literally) shiny image be associated with such dirtiness.

RE: Price
By mostyle on 5/20/2010 7:58:06 PM , Rating: 3
Foxconn at the request of Apple and Chinese state officials has made some steps to decrease the suicide rates. It's hired counselors and given workers dummies to beat on to vent their rage.

Ok, what the hell? You've got people killing themselves due to working conditions and your response is counseling and stress dummies? Am I the only one that sees the stupidity in that or am I over simplifying? If the work environment is generating the issue modify the motivator and the issue would resolve itself, no?

Ah, wait. the therapists and punch-dummies are still cheaper than the money we would loose were we to allow somewhat humane work hours.


And, they can sign a waiver foregoing labor standards? Nice. Glad that concept hasn't caught on in the US..


"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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