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Demand for jobs at Foxconn still huge, despite concerns

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.

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