We've known for a while now that Foxconn, the Chinese mega-plant where Apple and other technology companies have their gadgets manufactured, has struggled with suicides and rampant worker dissatisfaction. But today comes confirmation that Foxconn's labor force is involved in yet another ugly scandal: child labor.
Late Sunday night, a riot involving 2,000 workers broke out at a Foxconn plant in northern China that manufactures the iPhone 5, reportedly sparked by a fight between workers and security guards. Like the parade of horror stories out of Chinese factories, the riots once again underscored the notoriously dismal labor conditions of the young workers who make our gadgets. But it also highlighted a growing level of worker unrest in China. More than ever, Chinese workers are struggling to help themselves, which could improve labor conditions more than a thousand tearjerking This American Life exposes.
Foxconn Technology Group — the company that assembles iPads and iPhones in hellish Chinese factories that have had at least 13 workers commit suicide — might have found a solution to its disgruntled worker problem. Over the next three years, the company will increase the number of robots on factory assembly lines from about 10,000 to 1 million. One analyst told Reuters, "Rising salary costs should be the key reason why Foxconn is doing this."
Apple is famously hostile to leaks; to keep secrets, the company sued a teenaged blogger and lied about its CEO's health. This paranoid culture's new poster boy: a Chinese engineer who has killed himself after losing an iPhone prototype.
Sun Danyong, 25, recently jumped out the window of his apartment building to his death, VentureBeat reports. The engineer had just has his apartment illegally searched and may have been detained and abused by his employer, Apple manufacturing contractor Foxconn, after he lost one of 16 prototypes for a fourth-generation iPhone. Sun's frantic efforts to find the missing phone at a factory in Shenzhen, China had been unsuccessful.
Chinese electronics manufacturer Foxconn will manufacture and ship the first batch of new, faster 3G-network enabled iPhones by June, according to reports from Taipei, Taiwan. 3 million should ship that month, and an estimated 25 million over the life of the product. Foxconn is the sole manufacturer of the current generation of iPhones. But it has also been known to break Chinese labor laws — not that such practices would stop your typical antiwar environmentalist here in the Bay Area from upgrading. After all, that Yes, We Can video will download so much faster from YouTube now! (Photo by AP/Jason DeCrow)
I've been saying it for ages: There is no Googlephone. Last week, at the Web 2.0 Summit conference, I finally got confirmation that Google's not getting into the cell-phone business. How? I overheard a rep from Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, chatting up a vice president at Google. Now, I know this particular executive is utterly guileless; she wouldn't lie. And when the Foxconn rep tried to pitch her on getting a contract to make the Googlephone, she replied, flat-out, "We're not making a Googlephone."