Print 44 comment(s) - last by Dylock.. on Nov 8 at 2:40 PM

Another suicide has hit Foxconn's Shenzhen plant. According to a recent report one in six employees at the plant were physically abused by the company.  (Source: Telegraph UK)
Workers are reportedly toiling under sweat-shop conditions, abuse to produce popular electronics

A recent expose by a state-run news agency in China revealed that approximately one in six workers at electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn had been physically abused by their employer.  Foxconn, a subsidiary of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, responded quickly, saying the employees were lying and that its working atmosphere was "positive".

How "positive" that atmosphere really is has been brought into question yet again as yet another young employee has died in what appears to be a suicide.  The 23-year-old male was found dead outside a dormitory early on Friday.

Previously this year there had been 13 confirmed suicides at Foxconn's Chinese factories.  Despite China's high suicide rate, the suicides are unusual.  Most suicides in China occur among older rural residents -- heavily older rural females.  The Foxconn deaths though have been largely young males, living in an urban setting -- a demographic that has a much lower average suicide rate.

Employees interviewed by multiple Chinese news organizations report abuse and hellish working conditions.  The government is growing increasingly frustrated with Foxconn as they feel the company is casting the nation in a negative light and that the suicides may be caused by the poor conditions at the plants.

Other employees have died under questionable circumstances and may have committed suicide as well.  At least one employee is thought to have been worked to death.

Foxconn commands a lot of power in the electronics industry, though.  It is the primary manufacturer for Apple, Inc. making the company's popular iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Mac computers.  The company also makes hardware for Dell, HP, Microsoft, Nintendo, and more.  If you walk into a Best Buy store's electronics section it is a fair bet that the majority of products were at least partially assembled by Foxconn.

Despite the reportedly sweat-shop working conditions many young people have journey to Foxconn's massive factory towns that house hundreds of thousands of workers, lured by the promise of steady income and higher wages.  When they get there, though, many become homesick and bemoan the lack of promised raises.

Foxconn promised to give its employees a big raise to curb suicides and possibly move employees to midwest China, closer to its workers' homes.  According to investigative reports it has done neither.

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RE: Boycott Apple
By MozeeToby on 11/5/2010 11:25:58 AM , Rating: 5
920,000. That's the number of people that Foxconn employs. 450,000 of which work in 'Foxconn City' where the "suicide outbreak" took place. Think about that, think of a nearby city that is around that size, I'll give you some time... Now imagine that someone in that city commits suicide. Is that really news worthy? Now imagine

Let's put it this way. The average suicide rate in China is 6.6 per 100,000 people. If Foxconn employees were at the same average as the rest of China, you would expect, on average, to see 61 employee suicides per year, 30 in Foxconn City alone. Of course, during the "outbreak" there were 13 suicides in a 8 month period, well below the expected rate of suicides for a population that size. But hey, maybe China's suicide rate is unusually high, right? Actually, they're pretty average, lower than the US, the UK, lower even than Switzerland and Luxemburg, two countries with the highest per capita GDP in the world.

So, in summation. All those suicides at Foxconn so close together? They're a statistical anomaly, well within the expected variation for a population of that size.

And as for the $16000 in suicide compensation that was offered and apparently no longer is... that is a horrible, horrible thing to make available for people you think might be suicidal (again, not that Foxconn employees are especially suicidal). Personal responsibility is all that keeps many suicidal people from going through with the act, promising their surviving family members a small fortune if they go through with it is a terrible idea.

RE: Boycott Apple
By xti on 11/5/2010 11:31:12 AM , Rating: 2
imma need you to stop being logical. you will never get a job here!

RE: Boycott Apple
By Golgatha on 11/5/2010 11:47:14 AM , Rating: 2
Cloud the issue with facts why don't you?! Very good points. I'd like to see some hard numbers on the statistics of the suicides to see if the number at Foxconn are statistically significant.

RE: Boycott Apple
By FaaR on 11/5/2010 12:31:57 PM , Rating: 1
How about you just read the article properly? It already states that the suicides at Foxconn are anomalous because mostly young have been killing themselves, where in general it's the elderly that commit suicide in China.

Using the national average suicide rate to try and portray the situation as if there isn't a grave problem isn't "clouding the issue with facts", it's clouding the issue with desinformation.

RE: Boycott Apple
By Golgatha on 11/5/2010 2:01:02 PM , Rating: 3
Taken from the World Health Organization

Urban areas

15-24 = 3.0M, 4.8F per 100k

25-34 = 5.8M, 6.8F per 100k

In a population of 460k you would get 4.6x3.9 (3.9 is the average of male and female numbers) or roughly 18 suicides to be expected in a year. In the 8 month period mentioned there were 13 suicides, which is almost exactly 1 more than expected for a Chinese urban population comprised of only people aged 15-24. Obviously the older you go, the more suicides that are to be expected, and my numbers only take into account the employees who work on-site. The suicide rate seems to be in good agreement with the national rate in China.

RE: Boycott Apple
By Solandri on 11/5/2010 2:11:02 PM , Rating: 2
I'll add that the U.S. suicide rate for 20-24 year olds is 12.7 per 100,000 in 2007. So Foxconn actually has a considerably lower suicide rate for this demographic than the U.S.

RE: Boycott Apple
By Golgatha on 11/5/2010 2:03:42 PM , Rating: 2
I will agree with you that the working conditions are atrocious and need to be changed. However, the suicide rate is not unnaturally high for an urban Chinese population of this size.

RE: Boycott Apple
By Murst on 11/5/2010 12:12:11 PM , Rating: 2
The issue, as mentioned in the article, is that the people who are committing suicides at foxconn do not tend to fit the stereotype of people who typically commit suicides in China.

Perhaps it is just an anomaly, but my guess is that if news didn't report about this stuff, these people would be very quickly forgotten. And if there really is a problem there, then it would never get fixed.

Not to mention that there is already a history of very questionable behavior by foxconn security(for example, the lost iphone prototype) which may have contributed to suicides.

RE: Boycott Apple
By kingius on 11/5/2010 12:31:16 PM , Rating: 1
You conveniently ignored the key fact that 1 in 6 workers have been physically abused. Now where's your statistics to downplay that horrible bit of inconvenience?

RE: Boycott Apple
By Shining Arcanine on 11/6/2010 1:14:07 PM , Rating: 2
How do you know that it is a fact?

RE: Boycott Apple
By Strunf on 11/5/2010 12:53:44 PM , Rating: 4
You can't put it the way you did cause suicides aren't random, also you don't take into account that a city let along a country is made from all kinds of people, workers, beggars, criminals, drunks, old people, young people and so on... to make it fair you would need to pick a comparable population "type", basically a company and see the suicides rates of its employees, and even so it wouldn't be that "enlightening" cause a small company could have a high suicide rate even if only 1 of its employs made the step... it's for no reason that statistics are the preferred tool of politicians, they can say whatever they want with them.

The issue here is not the number of suicides but the why they are taking place! You say Switzerland and Luxembourg but how many of those suicides take place cause of poor working conditions and little to no rights? not many I bet.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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