back to article Foxconn allegedly hid underage workers from inspectors

Apple faces increased pressure today after its manufacturing partner Foxconn was accused of using forced student labour and hiding underage workers during high-profile independent inspections last week. Foxconn also makes components for other manufacturers, but Apple is its most prominent customer. The Register spoke to Debby …

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  1. LOL123
    Paris Hilton

    Patiently waiting..

    to see how the Apple fans spin this.

    I have been surprised..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Patiently waiting..

      Your Paris icon is appropriate, because your statement leaves me wondering about what Apple alone has to do with these allegations?

      "local governments in China "repay" Foxconn’s decision to locate in their area by shipping off vocational students to work in the factories"

      Can Apple alone override the local governments of China? Seems like a very tall order. But appears to me that Apple is already doing more about this than the rest of the industry.

      1. Wize

        Re: Re: Patiently waiting..

        Apple isn't going to change the legal system in China. But it does have the obligation to do ethical trading. And that includes not dealing with companies (eg Foxcon) who are proving themselves to be unethical.

        Same for any other company who use Foxcon for their manufacturing needs.

        1. Turtle_Fan

          Re: Re: Re: Patiently waiting..

          All fine and dandy but where's everyone else (dell, sony, microsoft etc.) in all this?

          Surely they don't just make products for apple, right?

        2. Goldmember
          Thumb Down

          Re: Re: Re: Patiently waiting..

          "obligation to do ethical trading"

          I hate Apple and their mediocre, over-hyped and wildly over priced products as much as the next guy, but this really isn't their battle.

          China is an awful place to work; shit conditions and shit pay are the accepted country-wide standard. Foxconn happen to be slightly less shit, partly due to negative press and slight pressure from Apple. And the huge amounts of cash they rake in. The people who work there aren't 'slaves' or any worse off than anyone else working in the area, in fact Foxconn are seen as better employers than many others.

          It is for the Chinese government and manufacturing industry to legislate working conditions and minimum age and pay requirements, not Western customers of Chinese manufacturers.

          1. Tom 13

            @Goldmember Re: Re: Re: Re: Patiently waiting..

            I'm not sure I understand the subtle distinction you seem to be trying to make vis a vie Forced Labor and Slavery.

            Perchance do your grandparents hail from Georgia? And do you still harbor ill feelings toward those damn Yankees because of the War of Northern Aggression?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Wize

          Indeed, but like I said Apple alone isn't going to change this without a coordinated effort from all other companies that use Foxconn. If Apple just dropped Foxconn, another company would pick up from there and nothing would change.

          The real question however is where could Apple - and HP, Dell, Microsoft, etc - go as alternatives for their manufacturing, when Foxconn clearly has such as stronghold position, it's monopoly being - as it appears - supported by the Chinese government?

          1. Wize

            Re: @Wize

            If all companies acted with the same ethics, it shouldn't be a problem. Everyone drops Foxconn out of concern for their end users.

            There are plenty of companies who will not deal with unethical companies and pride themselves when doing so.

            In my company, if we had opportunity of a nice big juicey profit on a project but the company is an iffy one, we are supposed to walk away even though someone less ethical would take it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Wize

            "coordinated effort from all other companies that use Foxconn"

            Since when has this really worked...

            The solution is obvious and simple - as in any civilised country - the Chinese government could enforce their laws, making the rules fair for everyone an competition healthy in the first place.

          3. Zippy the Pinhead

            Re: @Wize

            "The real question however is where could Apple - and HP, Dell, Microsoft, etc - go as alternatives for their manufacturing, when Foxconn clearly has such as stronghold position, it's monopoly being - as it appears - supported by the Chinese government?"

            How about in countries where workers have rights? China is chosen because they have a HUGE supply of cheap manual labor. Other countries can keep labor cost down by using labor and robotics. If other companies left China stating that the main reason they do so is because of their lack of worker's rights protections then China may actually be forced to crack down on illegal employment practices. However until the Chinese people rise up and force the government to give them the rights they should get the abuses will continue.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Re: @Wize

              China is not picked simply because of cheap labor, they also have the raw materials and energy.

              Remember the rare earths debacle?

              Guess the world's largest producer of aluminium?

              Not to mention the largest cluster of electronics companies.

              No other country has this in place.

          4. Minophis
            Thumb Down

            @+++ath0

            'If Apple just dropped Foxconn, another company would pick up from there'

            If we didn't do it someone else would is a shit excuse for doing a bad thing. If it was acceptable you might see it used in courts e.g.

            JUDGE: Why did you mug that little old lady

            CRIMINAL: Well your honour, if I didn't do it some else would

            See? It doesn't really work.

            1. Wize

              @Minophis

              Exactly right. Doesn't matter if its the old lady getting mugged or the company using under-age workers it all boils down to the same thing. By being a part of it, you are condoning it.

              Same could be said about the consumers who buy the products, but most won't have a clue about it. Some of them probably struggle over the idea of fair trade coffee.

              Ok, maybe Apple, HP, etc can't just drop Foxconn overnight. It will take time to get other suppliers on line. But if they start making the move today, they will have it in place eventually. They will also not be reliant on one supplier who could hold them to ransom or may suffer a failure of their own preventing shipment of their product. Never been a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket.

    2. Ilgaz

      Re: Patiently waiting..

      They will say "but they have small fingers"

      1. Andus McCoatover
        Windows

        "but they have small fingers"

        Schindler's list reference not lost on me.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Patiently waiting..

      Well 16 and 17 year olds are allowed to work in the UK as well as the rest of the EU as well as China and the USA so all this is, is another let's bash Apple story.

  2. ratfox Silver badge

    Interesting

    That Foxconn prepares for inspections should be no surprise... But the "mandatory internship to graduate" is a new angle. Entirely plausible, and scary: This is as close an example as I can think of to slavery – considering the internships might not even be paid!

    1. Arctic fox
      Thumb Up

      Re: "Interesting". Its funny actually what a close resemblance to certain aspects.....

      ..........of government policy in the UK this has. After all the British government's policy on "work for free" or no social help is in practice "shipping the unemployed" to work as "free labour" for employers in the UK or starve (in practice). Being forced to work a full working week for the pittance you get on the dole does have certain resemblances to the situation at Foxconn, hmm? Not that I am excusing for one split second the way Foxconn is treating its employees or the "help" that the company is getting from some Chinese authorities but the attitude of the government here towards the unemployed is in certain ways not so very different.

      1. Eradicate all BB entrants

        @arctic fox

        As someone who many years ago was unemployed for a few months I enrolled on an adult employment scheme. For £5 a week extra I worked full time. This was for six months. At the end there was no job available but I requested that the scheme be extended. It was. I was so grateful for the opportunity and the scheme gave me experience and something else, pride and self respect. In the end I also got a full time job doing something I loved.

        Now back to your point. Fair days wage for a fair days work? Sweet, so what about all that time we are paying them to sit on their asses and watch Jeremy Kyle? Where is the work output for that week? Well? Got an answer that you haven't copy/pasted from Socialist Worker? And why do you only include the amount they get as Jobseekers allowance? What about housing benefit? Council tax discount? Free internet access and computers from a couple of years ago? To pay my rent, council tax and other such things I have to work my ass off, why shouldn't they?

        1. Vic

          Re: @arctic fox

          > sit on their asses and watch Jeremy Kyle?

          I have a pet theory: I reckon the Jeremy Kyle Show is an effort to pressure people back to work by making daytime TV as shit as it could possibly be...

          Vic.

          1. Arctic fox
            Happy

            "Re: Re: @arctic fox" Actually Vic I have a horrible feeling that...............

            ...................you may be right. -:)

            AF.

          2. Al42
            Unhappy

            Re: Re: @arctic fox

            Being Forced to watch Daytime Tv AAARGH

            Have YOU No Compassion

        2. Arctic fox
          Thumb Down

          "Re: @arctic fox" I do think old chap that accusing me of being............

          .................some kind of follower of "Socialist Worker", ie some kind of ultra-left Trot because of my posting, says a great deal about how right-wing you are rather than how left-wing you imagine me to be. My point was simply that exploitation is exploitation regardless of which government is involved. That you were "grateful" for the "opportunity" to drop your pants, part your cheeks and bend over is a matter that is entirely up to you.

          1. Eradicate all BB entrants

            Re: "Re: @arctic fox" I do think old chap that accusing me of being............

            Actually the reality was my career didn't progress quickly because I was unwilling to drop my pants and part my cheeks, 2 promotions lost due to that. But you are correct to bring me up on the Socialist Worker thing, seeing as it is apparent you are not a full-time student that thinks raiding a branch of Tesco instead of attending lectures is activism. As for me being right-wing? Well I guess I must be as I only think it fair that if society gives me assistance when I need it I should do my best to remove that need for assistance.

            But I do stand by my point you are more lefty than centre, if you wish to benefit from the society you live in then you must contribute to that society.

            1. Arctic fox
              Thumb Down

              Re: Re: "Re: @arctic fox" I do think old chap that accusing me of being............

              "But I do stand by my point you are more lefty than centre, if you wish to benefit from the society you live in then you must contribute to that society."

              Actually old chap as a "lefty" I believe profoundly in precisely that, amusing that you as a "righty" believe that you have a monopoly on that attitude, hmm? Indeed as a "lefty" that particular statement pretty much defines my whole attitude to society - funny that eh?

      2. Andus McCoatover
        Windows

        Re: Re: "Interesting". Its funny actually what a close resemblance to certain aspects.....

        I have to agree.

        I'm on the 'Dole' - yet I have a 3-month contract to design a viable Audio/Visual studio - which I have. Network design's next... It's called work experience. (I love it - chance to learn something different from GSM/3G)

        Yet, I get an extra €9/day - tax free, in addition to my €450 (after tax) for being unemployed.

        The extra money is designed to pay for my monthly bus pass, and lunch.

        Now, if the UK Gummint could pay a bit, like 150/month, folks would clamour for this. But, no. Refuse a job, which you can't afford to get to, and forage garbage bins for food.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    "HP and Dell say Foxconn wage rises may trigger price increases"

    And meanwhile:

    "While some consumers may be happy to pay more for products from Apple, HP, Dell, Microsoft and others in the knowledge that workers are better compensated, it remains to be seen if price increases will be triggered and, if so, by how much. "

    http://thenextweb.com/asia/2012/02/23/hp-and-dell-say-foxconn-wage-rises-may-trigger-price-increases/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "HP and Dell say Foxconn wage rises may trigger price increases"

      These companies really use any excuse to raise prices

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    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. jungle_jim
    Thumb Up

    Foxconn. ROFLMAOCUNT

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Childcatcher

    "underage workers of 16-17 years old"?

    Underage?

    Seems China has stricter regulations than the UK then, or at least this association expects so.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "underage workers of 16-17 years old"?

      Depends if they are working shifts or not.

    2. Wang N Staines

      Re: "underage workers of 16-17 years old"?

      18 yrs is still school age in China.

      I suspect they are allowed to work but must not exceed a certain amount of hours. Hence why Foxconn try to hide the overtimes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: "underage workers of 16-17 years old"?

        "18 yrs is still school age in China."

        Erm, no.

        China's school leaving age: 15

        Employment age: 16

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_leaving_age

    3. vagabondo

      Re: "underage workers of 16-17 years old"?

      I read that as applying to overtime. Also previous reports suggest that "overtime" is compulsory at Foxconn.

    4. amanfromearth

      Re: "underage workers of 16-17 years old"?

      Yet the chinese government who made those laws appear to have no interest in enforcing them.

      Whilst I give credit to Apple for getting involved, surely it's the government should do this?

  7. Andy 70
    FAIL

    trade unions? heh, game over.

  8. MissingSecurity

    Re: Re: "HP and Dell say Foxconn wage rises may trigger price increases"

    I think Apple has plenty of pull to force companies to follow it. Everyone is chasing them for products and consumers.

    I think you could also argue that Apples profit margins are much higher because of their customers (dedications, stupidity <insert your own word>). While other companies announcing a price increase seems like a joke, I would argue that wages affect other companies far more than Apple because of the price differences we pay for the same product.

  9. David Eddleman

    "Foxconn does not employ"

    But what about interns, vocational training and more? Those are not situations where people are employed, just working for work experience, etc.

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Apple officials

    Just like every other industrial multinational corporation, Apple officials are there to ensure that production of shiny objects is not impeded by unforeseen obstacles and progresses at minimal cost.

    Company officials are not visiting to ensure that sub-contractors are working in the most comfortable, plush environment possible, because every additional comfort affects the bottom line and thus reduces margins.

    And reducing the margin is a capital offense, in every sense of the word.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "excessive overtime, harsh management practices"

    Isn't that the norm for Apple in the USA too?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Notable companies that Foxconn manufactures for:

    "Notable products which the company manufactures include the iPad,[5] iPhone,[6] Kindle, PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360"

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxconn

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really ?

    If you were using slave labor and under age labor and you knew the world was coming to check out the deplorable treatment of workers in your factory, would you show them all of your illegal and unscrupulous actions or pretend you're Saintly?

    As long as Foxconn is allowed to use slave labor and beat employees, then consumers should boycott all companies that Foxconn supplies including but not limited to Microsucks, HP, Apple, Acer and many more.

  14. Eric Kimminau TREG
    WTF?

    Chinese Child Labor Law

    According to this site: http://www.dsal.gov.mo/law/E138.htm

    Specifically Article 3, sections 1-3, anyone over Age 16 is "legal:

    Article 3

    1. The minimum age for admission to any type of employment or work which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young persons shall not be less than 18 years.

    2. The types of employment or work to which paragraph 1 of this Article applies shall be determined by national laws or regulations or by the competent authority, after consultation with the organizations of employers and workers concerned, where such exist.

    3. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article, national laws or regulations or the competent authority may, after consultation with the organizations of employers and workers concerned, where such exist, authorize employment or work as from the age of 16 years on condition that the health, safety and morals of the young persons concerned are fully protected and that the young persons have received adequate specific instruction or vocational training in the relevant branch of activity.

    :

  15. laird cummings
    Big Brother

    "Let us be very clear..."

    "...Foxconn does not employ, in any capacity, any underage workers."

    No, I'm sure they don't - Forced 'intern' students are not employees.

    "Foxconn increased wages throughout our operations in China to ensure that we maintained our position as one of the highest paying companies in our industry."

    "Highest Paying" does not mean "adequate wages." It merely means 'not quite as cheap as the other slaveshops.'

    Apple is one of the pack, in this regard; the only difference beaing that they're hoist on their own sales-pitch petard.

  16. JustWondering

    Ethically challenged

    "“I have trouble imagining an inspection, probably in any country, where management wouldn't tuck potential issues safely out of view,” he told The Reg."

    I would imagine the concept of an ethically responsible company would be well beyond his powers of comprehension.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Ethically challenged

      It's one of the classic oxymorons:

      Military Intelligence

      Honest Politician

      Business Ethics

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a few months all will forget

    Then Foxconn and other Chinese slave shops will return to normal and more people will commit suicide...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about the others

    Microsoft and Sony subsidise their hardware made at Foxconn, whilst Apple cream off a at least 30% profit from each unit and as a result have more cash than the US government.

    Sony laid off 70,000 workers a whilst back. I would say Apple are in the best position to improve conditions for those kids being forced to work in poor conditions. Apple have made most of their money from trendy kids living and working in privileged conditions.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perish the thought

    I can't imagine... a Chinese sweat shop hiding under age children from inspectors. This can't be possible, right? No one would allow children to be exploited, right? No company in China would beat their employees and force them to work in deplorable conditions, right? These claims must be flase, right? No U.S. companies would exploit Chinese laborers for financial gain while exporting U.S. jobs, right?

    Perish the thought.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Perish the thought

      Lucky for you, the non-profit spokeswoman got caught in a blatant lie. Meaning you don't have to imagine anything.

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