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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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How utterly...average.
By dev0lution on 5/20/2010 2:34:55 AM , Rating: 1
Average annual rate of suicides in the US for the 25-64 yr old age group is about 15 per 100,000 people (and they don't even work for Foxconn). 7 suicides and 9 attempts in 4.5 months out of a sample of 400,000 employees isn't terribly shocking. Wonderful investigative journalism ;-)

RE: How utterly...average.
By foolsgambit11 on 5/20/2010 6:50:31 AM , Rating: 1
That's also roughly the rate of suicide among Chinese, generally, according to statistics I could find. About 15 per 100,000. This factory has seen less than 5 suicides per 100,000 per annum. Sounds to me like working conditions were pretty good at the factory.

RE: How utterly...average.
By Danger D on 5/21/2010 12:01:27 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think the one plant itself has 400,000 workers. And the reporter found out about 9 suicides. How many more there were is anybody's guess. The suicide rate is through the roof.

RE: How utterly...average.
By Firebat5 on 5/22/2010 12:20:00 PM , Rating: 2
The article states that, "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."

Apparently the plant that the reporter worked at employs 400,000 people at any given time.

RE: How utterly...average.
By Danger D on 5/24/2010 9:58:36 AM , Rating: 2
I would guess that's an error, then. I can't imagine on manufacturing plant having 400,000 people. I'm pretty sure it's the company, but I'd love for someone with outside knowledge here to fill me in for sure.

My initial contention still stands, though. The suicide rate isn't 9 per 400,000. The reporter just knows about 9.

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