back to article Alexa, can you tell me how many Chinese kids were forced into working nights to build this unit?

An investigation by China Labor Watch has found that Amazon's Alexa and Echo devices are being made by child interns, some forced to work night shifts so suppliers can keep up with peak demand. The report found schools providing interns to work night shifts at a Hengyang Foxconn plant, producing Amazon devices. Kids who …

  1. theModge

    Amazon Response

    " we take appropriate steps, including requesting immediate corrective action."

    Request made formally in writing. Whilst verbally reminding management "It's only a request. You can ignore it." It's not exactly the strongest response anyone ever made...

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Amazon Response

      What appropriate steps are they likely to take considering how they treat their own staff in the US and Europe?

      If Bezos isn't one of the Lizard People, he easily qualifies to join them.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Chris G

        Dear Chris G

        On behalf of the Lizard People we would like to refute absolutely that Jeff Bezos is one of us. Jeff did not want to pay the $5 membership fee, and frankly we feel the association with Amazon's working and child labor practices might be bad for our image.

        Sincerely

        Your Lizard Overlords

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Chris G

          Hissssssßsss

      2. Nolveys Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Amazon Response

        What appropriate steps are they likely to take...?

        New and improved kid-friendly suicide nets. Unfortunately it will have to be paid for out of worker wages.

        1. teknopaul Silver badge

          Re: Amazon Response

          Last statement is crazy. It basically says sorry more than ten percent of our staff is forced labour by school kids.

          In the future it will be ten percent.

          1. Oliver Mayes

            Re: Amazon Response

            10% is the maximum amount of child workers permitted by law. They're just saying that they'll keep as many of them as they can legally get away with.

    2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Amazon Response

      In other news, Amazon announces the movement of most of its distribution sites and jobs to authoritarian states around the world, citing "Their world-leading labor flexibility". In the press release, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says "We've learned a lot from observing labor practices in the People's Republic of China, and we'd like to take those same industry-best practices worldwide!"

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Amazon Response

        Maybe he needs to read American History especially pre-Civil War. Then he'll have his true worst-case model for the labor force such as "worker complains... flog them"., "Worker runs away...chase them down and hang and/or flog them".

      2. Pseudonymous Howard

        Re: Amazon Response

        Reminds me of Ikea having production facilities in the former GDR (East Germany) in the 70s and 80s, which employed political prisoners in forced labour. They also planned to do the same thing in North Korea, but refrained from it when learning that this would break the sanction imposed on that country.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Amazon Response

      they quietly accept this, doing the "harumph harumph" when they get caught, pretending to be outraged, upset, or even just bothered by it all... and continuing to do business with sweat chops that engage in child labor practices like 19th century work houses.

      If they were SERIOUS they'd find another manufacturer. besides Foxconn...

      [As I recall, Foxconn is one of those companies (in)famous for having the '4th shift' that's off the books, where patents and copyrights are violated for "internal to China use only". Whether or not they STILL engage in those practices remains to be seen. However, ~10 yeas ago I was somewhat in the loop on that kind of thing and there WERE actual illegal clones made of company products for the company I was working for, complete with the company logo embedded inside of plastic because it changed the tuning of the RF elements by NOT being there]

      1. Chrissy

        Re: Amazon Response

        "4th shift"... I bought one of those chinese android phones - branded "Doogee" - to use for a gliding app.

        On startup it did the Samsung boot flash screen and sounds.

      2. BrownishMonstr

        Re: Amazon Response

        Interesting story there, Bob. Might telling us more? I am particularly interested in the part about the tuning of the RF elements and how it affected the company logo embedded inside.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Amazon Response

          RF circuits are highly sensitive to track, board and antenna layout.

          So if you start with your company logo, you can "accidentally" make it an essential component of the RF design. Removing the logo would break the circuit.

          Another skilled RF engineer could of course design their own version that used a different layout and met the specifications perfectly well, but that's a lot harder to do.

      3. pintofbitter

        Re: Amazon Response

        Bearing in mind also that a couple of years ago workers at Foxconn were committing suicide jumping out of the windows because of working conditions.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Amazon Response

          It was a sensible response by Foxconn to put the anti-suicide nets up. Quite understandably they didn't want to further upset the flow of the production line by having to order a couple of schoolkids outside to cart away the body and mop up the blood.

  2. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Devil

    Like Jeff Bezos cares. He gets up in the morning and squeezes the blood from a newborn into a glass for breakfast. Then spends his day designing posters for his Amazon Work Camps™, emblazoned with catchy slogans , such as "OBEY", "REPORT", and "CONSUME".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      as to blood-squeezing, I'd like to point out there are two parties to a product being produced in large quantities, those who sell, and those who buy. Including those buyers, who feign shock that their gizmo was made unethically.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        But there's many of us refuse to deal with Amazon and certain other tech companies. We also try to avoid most other products in other industries but that's getting harder and harder to do. I've found I can avoid much of this by not shopping at Wal-Mart, for example.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      No he doesn’t squeeze anyone’s blood. You are completely making that up. He has child labour to do that for him.

    3. Rich 11 Silver badge

      "OBEY", "REPORT", and "CONSUME"

      Let's not forget 'Arbeit macht frei'.

  3. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Amazon claimed the report came as a terrible shock

    Because they knew, or because they didn't? Neither looks good.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Amazon claimed the report came as a terrible shock

      Because Foxconn hadn't warned them in advance that Labour Watch had investigated them.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Amazon claimed the report came as a terrible shock

      Given the reports on Glassdoor, because they didn't have that idea first.

    3. DougS Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Amazon claimed the report came as a terrible shock

      Whether or not they knew, what was a terrible shock was that the information became public!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Amazon claimed the report came as a terrible shock

      because it was found out and publicized.

    5. M.V. Lipvig

      Re: Amazon claimed the report came as a terrible shock

      It was a shock that anyone would dare check up on them.

    6. FozzyBear Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Amazon claimed the report came as a terrible shock

      No that foxcon apparently paid for the extra overtime. What are we running here a F'ing Charity!!!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Avoid buying anything from Amazon

    You know it makes sense.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Avoid buying anything from Amazon

      Or perhaps: "Avoid buying anything made by Foxconn".

      If Amazon, or other customers of companies with dreadful records on slave labour, wish to avoid being tarnished by the same brush then they need only move their production facilities to a part of the civilised world.

      In practice, avoiding everything made in countries that enslave their population is going to be hard, but every little bit helps.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        'need only move thier production facilities to a part of the civilised world'

        Wasn't this the same company that at the New York hearings said it would have not been neutral if workers tried to unionize?

        They would move production facilities only when assured they can deploy the same working conditions and practices.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Avoid buying anything from Amazon

        Or perhaps: "Avoid buying anything made by Foxconn".

        hard to do sometimes. However, as manufacturing moves BACK to the U.S. (and robotics improve, etc. so as to limit labor costs), as tariffs make Chinese imports "less cheap", as Mexico continues to ramp up ITS manufacturing capability, and so on, COMPETITION with China and particularly Foxconn might resolve this.

        Other resolvable issues and competing alternatives ALSO exist, but there DEFINITELY needs to be an alternative to Foxconn in order to force them to stop it with the child labor crap.

  5. revenant Silver badge

    Interns?

    The fact that they are paid something doesn't detract from the fact that they are virually compelled to do the work. I would call them Slaves.

  6. Oh Matron!

    Plausible Deniability

    "While Amazon claimed the report came as a terrible shock...."

    This tends to happen when you have poor / non existent oversight / Audits

    1. Only me!
      Big Brother

      Re: Plausible Deniability

      They are too busy doing quality control on the devices to do quality control on the workforce welfare!

      I bet they undertake "vigorous Amazon" oversight on the quality of the product....but only "local oversight" on the grieve it causes the thousands of workers.

      Only exert the power, where it will decrease profits, not where it will increase profits, is my "cynical" thinking.

      Shocking!!!! But why am I not surprised?

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Plausible Deniability

      Maybe they could have just listened to the devices audio recordings?

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Plausible Deniability

      This tends to happen when you have poor / non existent oversight / Audits

      more like "bottom line uber alles". Sometimes you have to go with the slightly more expensive manufacturer who does NOT engage in immoral use of child labor.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Plausible Deniability

        What if they're doing the same or worse, meaning ALL roads lead to Hell?

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Plausible Deniability

          What if they're doing the same or worse, meaning ALL roads lead to Hell?

          What if you gain some real world experience and learn that there are a great many companies who do their best to do the right thing by their employees and their customers?

          What if you gain some RWE and realise that there are many people who, if they cannot find an ethical option, do without?

  7. big_D Silver badge

    Children?

    Where I come from, the examples would be young adults, not children.

    It is shocking, what they have to go through, and how the teachers are involved. I don't think the title needs kids in it, as such it comes over as misleading, for me, kids are under 13 years of age, after that, they are teenagers and, for the examples given, young adults.

    Reading the article, I was thinking, "yes, that's bad, but where are the examples with kids?"

    I wonder what the teachers and school would do if all of the students quit at the same time... Foxconn also needs to feel the consequence of their actions. They are ruining the lives and the chances of the students involved. They really should be taken to task for damaging the future economy for a short sighted, short term gain.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Children?

      The legal adult-child boundary varies around the world but is usually between 16 and 21 so in some places I think a 17 year-old would still legally be a "child". However, in many countries there is also a difference between "young adults" in full time education or training and those who have already entered the workforce and the key point to this article (which you do acknowledge) is that these are all people who are still at school. Quite apart from the threats being made to their grades nobody who is working those kinds of hours can also be studying to the extent required for a good passing grade these days.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Children?

        Whackypedia says China's age of majority is 18.

        1. jgarbo

          Re: Children?

          China's working age: 16.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Children?

            It's ridiculous that employers are paying 16 year olds a pittance to perform menial tasks under the excuse of training.

            Haven't they heard of YTS? - the government should be paying them for this

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: Children?

              "It's ridiculous that employers are paying 16 year olds a pittance to perform menial tasks under the excuse of training."

              It's ridiculous that the task of sticking a protective plastic film onto a screen hasn't been automated. Don't these people know anything about electronics?

              1. JJKing Silver badge
                Flame

                Re: Children?

                It's ridiculous that the task of sticking a protective plastic film onto a screen hasn't been automated. Don't these people know anything about electronics?

                They haven't got round to stealing that process from the West yet.

              2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

                Re: Children?

                Why should they?

                Its cheaper to paycoerce a student to do it than invest in the machinery, and unlike capital equipment, students wont hang around taking up space as production requirements change

          2. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Children?

            Indeed, but as they're under 18 (China's majority age) they're classified as children.

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Children?

        Back when I were a lad the minimum school leaving age was 14. You could leave school and take a full time job but it was assumed that you'd probably have a fair bit of on-the-job training. The school leaving age was raised during the 80s because of an unwelcome surge in youth unemployment -- keeping kids in school not only did in the unemployment at a stroke but it also provided a lot of extra jobs for educators. The expansion of tertiary education where every tech became a university merely extended this process by eliminating a lot of young adult unemployment, again at a stroke, and pushing out the inevitable (so now you've got a lot of quite expensive and not very useful vocational degrees......).

        Meanwhile the age of majority -- the age where you're legally regarded as an adult, dropped from 21 to 18. The rationale for this was that you can be conscripted into the military at 18 so if you can die for your country you should be able to vote as well.

        Now I live in the US I've noticed a tendency for people to 'infantilize' young adults, especially girls. You used to be able to get an after school job starting at age 16 with permission from your high school but these days its rare for employers to consider anyone under 18 for anything. We've also got the Reagan era draconian drink laws that severely punish young people caught wiith alcohol under the age of 21. (Same with tobacco and other substances.) The age of consent -- which used to be 16 in the UK -- is another area that's gray, in general you'd be best off not interacting with anyone under the age of 25 if you're an adult.

        Anyway, having experience of an electronic assembly line in action the first thing you'll notice is that its highly automated -- its impossible to hand solder modern circuit boards, the parts are too small and the tolerances are too tight. There's some manual or quasi manual stages involved, especially things like applying solder mask tapes, but overall its an exercise in machine minding and maintenance that needs a lot of know how to work. Most people won't know much about this because all the work's outsourced for the most part -- I just happen to be working at company that does actually have a production line so I'm aware of all the processes involved. (Its sufficiently rare even in California that the production line has a part time secondary function of being a film set 'factory' for shooting adverts and stock footage.)

    2. jgarbo

      Re: Children?

      Another US backed anti-China play. US customer of renowned integrity, Amazon, orders slave driver Taiwanese maker, Foxxcon, to "just do it!" in their Chinese factory, with 16yr old workers. And China's the culprit? Plus, China Labor Watch is NYC based "NGO", income sources not shown (NED?). Well, at least they didn't blame the Russians.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Children?

        I most certainly don't read this as anti-China - it is overwhelmingly anti-Amazon/anti-Chinese exploited labour 'customers'.

        But we all have to look at the mirror.

        You could argue that a lot of the economic wealth of the world is off the back of these exploited Chinese labourers. I mean take a look around you, so much made and assembled in china - which ones aren't the product of exploited labour?

        It's cheap for a reason. And not a good one.

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Children?

          It has also improved the living conditions of an awful lot of Chinese. If you think it is bad now, look back 40 years.

          For the record, I find the Chinese government pretty bad in a lot of ways. It is just that the recent past is so awful.

        2. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Children?

          >It's cheap for a reason. And not a good one.

          If you've seen a modern electronics production line in action then you'd know that its not the labour intensive activity that it used to be even 20 years ago. Most of the assembly is automated, it has to be because humans just aren't fast or accurate enough to handle the parts. Much of the manual labour in building something like an Echo will be in a handful of operations, typically working with power devices, possibly final assembly and testing at board and product level.

          China might have a huge population but its still having problems with shortages of skilled and semi-skilled labour. Wages are also increasing which means that some types of labour intensive production are being offshored.

          (BTW -- its not just electronics production.)

      2. M.V. Lipvig

        Re: Children?

        No, it's the fault of the Chinese. If they as a nation didn't allow this, it wouldn't be happening. China sold itself as a cheap labor nation, now you know part of why the labor is so cheap.

        Mind, I'm not saying Amazon's hands are clean here, nor are the hands of any business that uses China for manufacturing. They HAD to know that their stuff was being made by workers in slavish conditions, but they only care about recieving product at an acceptable level of quality at a set price. They didn't care to wonder why it was so cheap.

        As for me, I try to buy products made in the USA first, because I'm a US citizen. Were I European, I would be trying to buy from my home nation first, adjoining nations second, and so on. Unfortunately, it's hard to buy home-grown, and almost impossible from Amazon. Many's a time I ordered a US built product on Amazon, and what arrived was made in China. These days, I order almost nothing from Amazon because of this. What little I do order, is when I can't find an item anywhere else, and I can't do without it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Children?

          *pulls up in a Renault, puts the rear view mirror in the glove box after it falls off, steps out, closes the door and puts the door in the boot after it falls off*

          European...fuck yeah.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Children?

      They really should be taken to task for damaging the future economy for a short sighted, short term gain

      If you haven't noticed, that's the current business model everywhere. Taking care of employees and respecting the work that they do is dead and buried in the corporate world.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Children?

        It's also the goal of brexit.

        1. ElectricPics

          Re: Children?

          Oh, grow up.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Children?

        >> that's the current business model everywhere

        When was it different?

      3. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Children?

        Not here, thank God.

        If I build up overtime, my boss wants me to go home early the next day, or as soon as possible, to get rid of the hours in my overtime account.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Children?

          Really? If you do overtime it can be negated by you working fewer hours the next day? Don't you have contracted daily hours or something like most people? So, theoretically, if you do overtime like, say 4x10 hour days, your boss could just tell to not come in on Friday to make up for it?

          I would hope, that at the very least, your time off in lieu is at 1.5X the overtime hours worked.

          1. Vometia Munro

            Re: Children?

            "Your contract may stipulate your hours, but it also says as a salaried employee you put in the hours necessary to do your contracted job in order to draw that salary [and not a penny more]": I've heard words to that effect more times than I care to remember. In other words, they expect free on-call, and that "you do overtime as required, it balances out" means overtime every week, and I get to shut up and be grateful for... something. Oh yeah, unnecessary commuting, that makes it all worthwhile. Because, "that thing where we nodded about home-working, well we kinda changed our minds because we decided being in the office fosters that sweaty smell of team spirit. Not our problem if you don't like it, sucks to be you that it's such a long drive lol."

            Also the wonder of that 48 hour opt-out. "We've re-drafted your contract which you are required to accept and sign otherwise you are free to not work here. Oh btw we've thoughtfully stapled the 48 hours voluntary opt-out over the page where we both sign it. You'll notice we haven't actually signed it yet because, haha, we were too busy. So just sign the opt-opt and contract but especially the opt-out and then we'll countersign the new contract we've obliged you to sign and return to us. lol. Also fuck you. lol."

            What drives me nuts is that so much of this extra hours stuff is about nothing more than putting in an appearance, thinking of jobs like the one where my idiot PHB couldn't even think of stuff to fill a quarter of my regular hours and decided I should be his secretary instead of the sysadmin job I was hired to do.

            But complain as I do, at least when I was at school I got to do, y'know, school. Without working down pit every night etc.

          2. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Children?

            If we work excessive hours or weekends, then we get 1.5x or 2x. If it is just 1 - 2 hours, then it is just 1:1.

            But we are contracted to do an 8 hour day and a 40 hour week. We should try and keep our overtime account as close to zero as possible - it is also possible to drop into minus hours, as long as it isn't too many. It is at the manager's discretion, whether we can leave early or not, but if there is no deadline or the phones are ringing off the hook, we can generally go home an hour or two early.

            They are also very consequent about company telephones, if you are not at work and you are not on call, you should not use the company phone - ignore incoming calls and emails. We are also encouraged to switch them off during leave. I left mine in the corner and after 4 days of leave, it needed charging, so I plugged it in and noticed an email from my boss on the team mentioning that VPN wasn't working properly. I quickly tried the VPN and sent a reply saying that it worked for me, he sent back a message saying thanks for the feedback, but to turn off the phone and enjoy my leave!

            When I was in the UK, I worked for Cap Gemini, formerly Hoskyns, formerly Plessey Information Engineering. One of the directors, I think it was in the Hoskyn's days said that there should be no need for overtime and if you were having to perform overtime, then the project manager hadn't done his job properly.

            Obviously there are exceptions - unplanned downtime, when hardware or software fails unexpectedly or last minute changes just before project deadlines. But in general, if you are doing overtime on a regular basis, you boss has screwed up big time.

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Children?

      "I wonder what the teachers and school would do if all of the students quit at the same time..."

      I can field that one for you. They would get other students to replace them and be back to normal in a year.

      I can also field the question you should have asked, "I wonder what would happen to the children [yes, they're children to me] if all of the students quit at the same time...". The answer is that their lives would be ruined. China's university admissions system is very competitive. With a negative review from a teacher, they would be denied entry to all the top universities, and only those who managed a very outstanding score on the examinations would have any chance whatsoever. Without that kind of education, they won't get any other opportunities. This is also why, if they chose to quit, the school would have built the student base back within a year. Because the educational system is so important and so competitive, parents without the means (read money) to ensure the further progress of their children will accept many downsides in exchange for good prospects. If absolutely necessary, the teachers and school could indicate to the parents that their children will be promised good grades and reports, but I doubt they'd even need that. Abuses are easy when chances are few.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Children?

        Not to mention that competition stems from the fact that one's dishonor is the family's dishonor, too. And one wonders why the suicide rates in Far East countries are so high...

  8. sbt
    Unhappy

    I am shocked.

    Not that I needed another reason not to buy an eavesdropping device.

  9. JulieM Silver badge
    Stop

    Exporting Misery

    We quite rightly have laws in the UK which protect workers against exploitation, by restricting maximum working time, obliging employers to provide toilet and refreshment facilities and breaks for the use thereof, outlawing child labour, paying a minimum wage, guaranteeing the right to belong to a trade union and so forth.

    Allowing the import of goods manufactured under conditions which would not be acceptable here subverts all this. It's saying, there are ways in which it's not OK to treat a British worker -- but it's fine to treat a Chinese worker in those same ways. How is this not racism?

    Until we place a total ban on the import of any goods produced under conditions which would not be acceptable in the destination country, we are exporting misery. (And not doing our own workers any favours, if they are unemployed because everyone is buying cheap quasi-legal imports.)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Exporting Misery

      We used to force 16-18 year olds onto YTS schemes to keep the unemployment figures down, no scheme no money.

    2. bork

      Re: Exporting Misery

      So, in essence, a trade war with China and Taiwan.

      Heh

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: Exporting Misery

        If you banned sale of goods found to be produced using forced /child labour it would not start a trade war it would just force suppliers to treat workers fairly. They could not move to trading with a different country if the same rules apply.

        It would only be trade war if you decided that good produced in your own country did't count. e.g. goods produced in US prisons is fairly clearly forced labour. You'd have to stop that before mounting your high horse.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Exporting Misery

          "f you banned sale of goods found to be produced using forced /child labour it would not start a trade war it would just force suppliers to treat workers fairly."

          Or they could just find a place that finds it cheaper to keep on doing it and cover up the fact.

    3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Exporting Misery

      Don't worry, Cummings (wassat about unelected EU bureaucrats?), Moggy, and Johnson will ensure that British and Chinese workers will be treated equally...

    4. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Re: Exporting Misery

      It's saying, there are ways in which it's not OK to treat a British worker -- but it's fine to treat a Chinese worker in those same ways. How is this not racism?

      It would not be OK to treat a worker in the UK of any race in that manner, just as it would be OK to treat a worker in China as described in the article, regardless of race (though they are very homogenous demographically). It's not about race... it's about the standards of the country in question, and the only reason you've brought this up is that racism has become the worst imaginable sin possible in the west, and somehow making it "racism" instead of "institutionalized slavery" (but by members of the same race) is supposed to make it even worse.

      It's the Chinese government whose job it is to stand up for the rights of Chinese citizens, just as the British government has for its own citizens. Why is it that this kind of thing as described in the article isn't ok in the UK? It's because the UK has a representative government and the people of the UK won't stand for it.

      In China, there is no representative government, and it doesn't much matter what the people stand for. The government is responsible for what happens to its citizenry, and by our standards, it has fallen down on that job very badly since the "People's Republic of China" has existed.

      But (playing devil's advocate here) who are we to impose our values on the Chinese? Surely they are capable of running their own country without our help. Companies will do whatever they can get away with in any country; this much is known already. If the Chinese government allows it, that's their choice for their citizens (if you can call them that) and their country.

      Refusing to impose our western views of human rights on Chinese workers is not racism.

      I agree with the western views of human rights; I think the way the Chinese government treats its citizens and allows others to treat its citizens is terrible. Do I think our western values are better than theirs? You bet your ass I do.

      I don't find that to be racist either, as I don't care what race the person is... all people have rights, and the Chinese government systematically violates the human rights of its own citizens, or stands by and does nothing as Foxconn and others do the same.

      If there was any racism in this equation, it would be those of us in the west thinking we know how Chinese workers should be treated better than the actual Chinese (meaning the government) do. Of course, we do think that, or there would not be any outrage over this.

      It's not about race. Not everything that is bad and unacceptable has to be boiled down to racial issues.

      1. M.V. Lipvig

        Re: Exporting Misery

        Rather long winded post. Simple response. China can treat its citizens as it wishes, but if I don't like it I don't have to do business there. If my nation wants to ban imports because of forced child labor, China may continue to do it, they just won't sell in my nation.

        The only part of your post that was correct is that this isn't racism. It's slavery, to compel a person to work against their will. It's why people who work for a living are called wage slaves, we are compelled to work because we need wages for life's necessities. But we, at least, can change jobs if we don't like working conditions.

    5. hoola Bronze badge

      Re: Exporting Misery

      The problem with this is that the general public will soon be complaining that everything is increasing in price. Most people shop based on the lowest possible cost and the likes of Amazon excel in feeding that demand. They facilitate the import of cheap tat that would never be here in the first and distort the market for normal items by aggressively reducing overheads of their own business buy manipulating profits, tax & revenue as well as their workers.

      To a certain extent we are as much to blame by continuing to consume these goods manufactured in the China and similar places. The difficulty is the much of the increase in Western "wealth" has been by ruthless expunging of social and moral responsibility. The population get their cheap goods and conveniently ignore the impact, socially and environmentally and a few mega corporations get to became a monopoly. The real spread of wealth globally is pitiful and the likes of Amazon, Apple and many others are just totally amoral and could not give a stuff as long as the money keeps flowing. Occasionally they get found out, there is a bit of huffing and puffing and then it is quietly buried, mostly because it is too inconvenient to do anything about it. That requires a cultural change at that is just not going to happen. Ironically, at some point the world is going to run out of places where labour is next to worthless assuming we don't destroy the planet first.

  10. Tam Lin

    Chinese kids sure have it easy

    I'm an American who just (should have) retired, and I picked tobacco at age 14 for American smokers, washed dishes and scraped grease from exhaust fans for fat American drunks at 15; at 16 I loaded 45kg bags of fake milk for calves into 60C boxcars for 10+ hours a day (summer), and assembled washing machine components (after school). To be fair, only the assembly work wasn't fun...

    1. InNY

      Re: Chinese kids sure have it easy

      By gum! You 'ad it lucky! When I were 8 we had t'go dowhn pit... and p'y mine owna' fo' privilege!

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Chinese kids sure have it easy

        You ‘ad it lucky. I had to join my 4 year old brother down pit as he was too big to get to some ‘f t’ seams

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Chinese kids sure have it easy

      ...but you weren't forced to do so under threats and you could change jobs any time you felt the need and could find a better one.

      1. jason 7 Silver badge

        Re: Chinese kids sure have it easy

        Probably didn't have your entire family's health insurance tied to it too.

        "You quit and little Johnny dies from no insulin!"

  11. John70

    Next week, it's Apple's turn again on the child/slave labor in China building iThings.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      After several years of bad news on this front they've probably got their monitoring and compliance set up pretty well, it has been some time since there have been any stories about Foxconn labor abuses involving Apple.

      This is probably Amazon's first time dealing with Foxconn, it will take them time to learn all the ways Foxconn can screw them over and give them a public black eye until they get things under control.

  12. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Holmes

    We do not tolerate Anyone knowing about our violations of our Supplier Code of Conduct. *

    TFTFY

    * see Apple and any number of western customers

  13. DougS Silver badge

    This is worse than prison labor in the US

    At least prisoners have a choice of whether to work for pennies or sit around in their cell. Apparently these "students" need to work full time or 50% over full time in order to graduate. How sticking film on an Alexa "educates" them eludes me, but I'm sure the instructors collecting a bounty for selling out their students can come up with some excuse.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: This is worse than prison labor in the US

      How sticking film on an Alexa "educates" them eludes me,

      In most countries, it would teach the kid that factory work is not what they want to for the rest of their life. But the, most countries at least have some opportunity to do that.

  14. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Alexa: Play the "Amazon boat song" please...

    Hmm, wonder if there are any Day-O's in the software.

  15. Claverhouse Silver badge

    Teachers verbally and physically abuse pupils to ensure compliance with factory demands.

    Always distrust didacticism...

  16. Jay Lenovo Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Earning your Degree

    Who needs all this bureaucracy? Let international trade go free and unfettered (sarcasm)

    Once imports cross the border, their origins are baptized in blissful goodness.

  17. earl grey Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    we do not throw employees off balconies

    Roof throwing is allowed, however.

  18. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    Terrible

    I do not approve of child labor.

    I actually go out of my way to reuse and repair older phones where possible, on the basis that doing so is kinder to the environment.

    Re. US prisoners, within reason giving them something to do is fair but blatant exploitation is not.

  19. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Dystopian future, here early

    Sweatshop factories

    Forced child labour

    Forced overtime

    Bugging devices for the masses

    We have always been at war with Oceania

  20. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Amazon: "if we find violations, we take appropriate steps,"

    Hmm, what steps can they actually take? Threaten to pull their business from Foxconn? And move it where? The best they can do is spend extra money by hiring independent inspectors and make sure they pay them enough to not be bribed and/or keep reporting them to the local authorities. There's really not much else they can do other than pull out of Foxconn or even out of China, and that isn't going to happen. It'll cost too much.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting Foxconn response

    They're not denying it at all, just state that they will control the percentage.

    Appaling.

  22. livin' thing
    Unhappy

    This is the downside to our constant need for new shiny tat

    We demand products to be cheaper and cheaper; we demand continual growth; we demand new shiny things year on year.

    See also: landfill fashion, as probably worn by your daughter, nieces or partner.

    This is the consequence.

  23. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Holmes

    "it would affect their graduation from school. "

    Especially if you keep falling asleep in lessons during the day.

  24. Cartimand

    Think of the wei ones...

    Whilst any form or coercive labour is rightfully condemned, the fact that some of these "children" are as young as 17 or 18 doesn't really add much weight to the case.

    The opening text conjured forth grim images of tiny infants, hardly more than toddlers, working their poor little digits to the bone, under the grim and unblinking supervision of Foxconn slave-masters.

    Are some of these child workers well into their 20s and 30s or even middle aged?

    Do these internships look good on their CVs?

    Enough of the cynicism though. If Amazon does put measures in place to improve conditions for workers of ALL ages, then that has to be a good thing.

  25. Kiwi Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Amnesty International, Tear Fund, World Vision - time to act.

    I know so many people who'll buy cheap stuff from overseas rather than a more expensive version of the same product produced locally.

    This of course is wrong on multiple levels - it deprives local workers of employment, deprives local firms of income, means to some degree the goods have to travel further (obviously some components or raw materials need to be imported in most cases). And of course, it means we're exporting misery and slave labour whilst ruining our own economy and risking our ecology.

    Perhaps you guys can start running some adverts that can actually point out to the selfish types who buy cheap rather than local that they're actually employing child slaves to make their products? Perhaps you can start to pressure the governments to not only outlaw child slavery locally but internationally.

    If I was to travel to a country where sex with someone under 16 is perfectly legal and engage in that act, I am still guilty of a crime under NZ law and can be imprisoned once I return. Under NZ law (and several other countries do this as well I believe) it is illegal to have sex with someone under 16 anywhere in the world, even if it is perfectly legal where you happen to be at the time. Perhaps it is time to extend this style of lawmaking to other areas as well - make it a criminal offence to employ child slaves even if you're only purchasing an iPhone or Alexa or whatever. Make it worth prison time (yes I extend that to Android and any other device). Sure there'll be some economic hiccups but at least people don't buy without knowing what's involved.

    I'm not advocating the wiping out of all 'child labour' however. As a kid I enjoyed opportunities to work on various farms, do paper rounds, mow lawns and do a great many other jobs to earn extra pocket money. That money allowed me to purchase and enjoy things my parents could not afford to buy for me. I've also known a few kids who simply could not perform at all at school, and letting them take job opportunities that came up when they were 13 or 14 was best for everyone involved.

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