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Demand for jobs at Foxconn still huge, despite concerns

Thu 23 Feb 2012 11:06am GMT / 6:06am EST / 3:06am PST
People

Chinese manufacturer still sees huge queues of applicants for factory work

Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer which has been the subject of much press scandal and official investigation because of its allegedly poor working conditions and employment law violations, still sees an enormous amount of competition for its factory floor positions, a report has claimed.

A piece for Reuters by James Pomfret, filed from Foxconn's main recruitment centre in Longhua in China, says that thousands of workers, largely migrants from rural regions, wait daily outside the company's plant to be taken for aptitude tests in the hope of employment.

Concerns over worker welfare at the company are well documented, with a spate of attempted suicides, several worker protests and an Apple report which acknowledged labour law infringements including child labour violations all attracting negative press attention.

Nonetheless, workers are flocking to the plants, following the larger trend of Chinese workers fleeing countryside areas as the nation continues to centralise its population around industrial centres.

"As you can see, everyone wants a job here," a 19-year-old migrant worker told Reuters. "I've been coming here every day for two weeks now. Perhaps today will be my lucky day."

Recent payrises at the company have ameliorated the tension somewhat in the eyes of the world's press, as have the investigations by Apple and the US-based Fair Labour association. Nonetheless, workers at the plants themselves claim that those raises have been rendered useless by the simultaneous introduction of charges for dormitories and canteens, previously provided to workers free of charge.

Such a move would not be a new tactic. Many generations of workers around the world, in industries as diverse as fruit production, mining and pure industry have been forced to live in the compounds and production plants they work in - either because of their geographical isolation or simple company policy. It has not been uncommon for owners to recoup wages and benefit costs by maintaining monopolies on goods for sale and accommodation, charging workers well over the odds.

But, even after these considerations, as well as the safety issues arising from poor conditions, long hours and phenomenons such as the explosive nature of the aluminium powder which is a by-product of many high-tech manufacturing operations, Foxconn is attracting huge numbers of workers whilst other companies struggle.

"As a top manufacturing company in China, the basic salary of junior workers in all of Foxconn's China factories is already far higher than the minimum wage set by all local governments," read a recent statement from Foxconn. Boards outside the Longhua plant advertise wages of 1,800 Yuan ($290) per month, Reuters reports, significantly higher than in other areas of the country.

Apple is perhaps the highest profile client of Foxconn, but Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo also use the company's services. An investigation into worker conditions at the company's plants, partly coordinated by Apple, is ongoing.

6 Comments

"Recent payrises at the company have ameliorated the tension somewhat in the eyes of the world's press, as have the investigations by Apple and the US-based Fair Labour association. Nonetheless, workers at the plants themselves claim that those raises have been rendered useless by the simultaneous introduction of charges for dormitories and canteens, previously provided to workers free of charge."

Sounds about right.

As for the lines of workers queuing up, what do you expect? Of course people will queue up to work there - that's what happens when there's no social security system to speak of. People need to eat. Simple as, really.

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,193 1,170 0.5
And still, the iPad 9 or whatever number it is Apple is up to will bust all sales records despite all this, I'd bet...

Posted:2 years ago

#2
This is a revealed preference justification, a common fallacy in economic discourse. If I hold a gun to someone's head and ask for their wallet, it will probably be revealed that they would prefer to give me their wallet than die. That does not justify my behavior.

That workers would rather work at Foxconn than starve to death reveals preference under duress. It is an attempt to make Foxconn appear noble for giving people more than they already have, which under many circumstances is fine. But it raises many questions: how did Foxconn become this powerful? What businesses that would treat their workers better are unable to compete with it because of its high profile western backing? Why are workers being charged in a monopoly economy for their living quarters? Why are the owners of Foxconn entitled to profit so much from workers literally working themselves to death? Why are they hiring underage workers and lying about it? With so many applicants, why is their work force forced to work so much overtime? How is this any more ethical than overt slavery, just because "choice" is involved? Plantation slaves could have chosen to risk their lives escaping into unfamiliar lands but chose not to take that risk; I guess that is revealed preference for plantation work. That slavery happens is a paradox then; if it is revealed that they prefer slavery to the alternatives of being whipped or running away, then it is their choice and not slavery?? What of the workers that commited suicide; they reveal a preference for death to a life with no hope for upward mobility at Foxconn. What does that say?

Revealed preference opens the flood gates to all sorts of trickery and exploitation. This is the world we are heading for: the ruling elite have found that they can no longer force people into slavery but they can manipulate the economy (wall street, CEO pay determined by their friends on the board in a faux pay market, socialized losses and private profits), the political climate (bought elections, US partisan politics that keep the underclasses fighting each other over imaginary party lines) to where people are grateful for slavery conditions. With globalization, an army of unemployed, and a shrinking middle class, I wouldn't discount this as merely a second world trend. Soon all our labor will be bloating the elite, with only enough given to us to sustain our existence like work mules.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Christopher Bowen
Editor in Chief

447 692 1.5
Remember: Andrew Carnegie, who is only known as one of our greatest and most admirable businessmen and philanthropists, had conditions very, very similar to this at Homestead. Eerily similar, actually, once technology is accounted for.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Joseph Harvey
Department head

13 2 0.2
Mr. Pearson, the correct plural of "phenomenon" is "phenonema," not "phenomenons." Just so you know.

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Dan Pearson
European Editor

109 295 2.7
Actually, if referring specifically to non-scientific rare or exceptional occurrences, phenomenons is acceptable, albeit less widely used. In the purely scientific or philosophical realms, phenomena is the only plural.

Still, I would probably have used phenomena if I'd stopped to think about it.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

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