Sunday, May 23, 2010

Suicides At Chinese Factory Making iPhones, iPads

You may have heard about the spate of recent suicides by workers in the Chinese factories that manufacture Apple's spectacular electronic products, from iPhones to iPads to iPods. What is less well known is that this assembly work is not done by Apple itself, but rather by an entirely separate Taiwanese company called Foxconn.  You can watch a 5 minute video from the Financial Times HERE that provides a rare glimpse inside their main factory complex in Shenzhen, China (just across the border from Hong Kong). 

I lived and worked in China for over 5 years and in that time I toured dozens of factory complexes in southern China just like this one. While the dormitory-style living conditions look hopelessly cramped to western eyes, you may be surprised by how relatively clean and well-lighted both the living spaces and the factory floors are.  But this video does an excellent job of capturing the mind-numbing repetitiveness of the assembly line work, and the unrelenting pressure from unsympathetic bosses who believe (rightly) that any unhappy or underperforming migrant Chinese worker could be replaced at any time by one of hundreds of other willing applicants. Far away from home for the first time and working 12 hours a day on an assembly line, it is any wonder that some of these young teenage workers become hopelessly depressed?

With that in mind, it's interesting to listen to the Foxconn spokesman in this video explain the company's analysis of their spate of worker suicides. 

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