The hard life of a Chinese high-tech labour worker

Under the Christmas tree, some of us will hopefully find a great Iphone 4 32G, an amazing 9.7 inch Ipad 3G, a Dell netbook, a Sony PSP® or a Nokia N8 smartphone. On the user manual, it shall be written how to handle it but certainly not how it has been made. Today, La Vie French magazine publishes a long story (including side boxes here and here) about life at Foxconn, main Apple’s supplier. Sorry, it’s only in French but let me propose you my comment in English.


Despite tragic suicides (14 officially – one last November, yet much lower than in others fims like France Telecom but when it comes to very young people in such a guarded area, it raises questions) and several promises for pay rises, Foxconn is still compared by Hong-kong ngo Sacom, as a “labour camp”. How come?

So I went there in May and then back again lately, to check what really changed during this 6 months period of time. Salary is now high, better than any other factory around, but happiness is still not here, whatever swimming pool or tennis court you might have seen on tv, owing to Foxconn p.r.  Is it due to Foxconn’s military discipline (typically taiwanese, i have been told) ? to a rather hostile environnement (huge dorms, huge factory) that doesn’t match with young workers expectations?

Everyday, Xiao Li, 18 years old, wakes up at 6 in the morning in a room where she has be assigned by her manager, with 9 other people, coming from 9 different places. On 6h40, she leaves her room, walks down a long road and arrives at the South gate after a 20 minutes walk. She will buy noodles on her way, like every morning. If she eats at the canteen, she will waste time and sleep less. In this giant factory outside Shenzhen, Xiao Li and his 300 000 comrades get ready for a 13 hours a working day (excluding lunch break, including overtime), six days a week with a 10 minutes break every two hours. Six days a week is normal in China but it can easily turn to 7 days when sudden customers’ orders come up.

At her production assembly line, which has always been relying on human labour more than sophisticated machines for cost reasons, she is not allowed to speak, listen to music or even look at her comrades while trying to achieve the christmas production targets. Her mobile is confiscated every morning too but insults from managers, she says, have disappeared. Instead, they just ignore her, after all the bad publicity they got last spring when 13 Foxconn suicides hit the headlines which blamed the company for harsh management.

However, a noticeable improvement has been made after 30 glorious years of economic reforms in China: she is allowed to sit down while working. Well, it depends on her manager’s good mood.

Compared to the toxic bluejeans factories in Xintang or swimwear factory in Dongyuan, what is striking here  - although it is NOT child labour - is that all of the workers are 17, 18, 19 or in their early twenties.  Foxconn doesn’t want older people to live in this 320 000 people city.

The young foxconn workers are obedient, have almost no previous work experience and they don’t have a clue about what labor rights mean, according to Liu Kaiming, director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation, a labour right group in Shenzhen. They would never complain, in such an unfriendly environnement where security guards, like those bloodcurling fluorescent lamps, are everywhere: at the dorms, at the canteen, at the recruitement center or at the workshop.

Inside the factory, if you call the police number , you will have great chance to be transfered automatically to the guards phone number. As far as me and my cantonese interpreter were concerned, guards illegaly tried to check my passeport, her id card and even called the police when we asked them politely to call the Media department for us. For sure, Foxconn likes secrecy.

(I took this picture last May, when a mother who was sitting at the main gate, was taken by the police. Her son died but no police investigation has been made so far. She believed the guards had beaten her child to death)

These young workers are educated, are often the fruit of China’single child policy. They have moved from small towns in remote parts of China after their degree. They are the new generation of Mingong (=migrant workers) in China.

Their parents are farmers or migrant workers themselves, from poverty-stricken provinces like Henan, Hunan, Sichuan. But these families hope their children will send them back some precious money, to build a concrete home or to cover health expenses. However, none of these parents have any idea about how difficult is their child’s job, how harsh is the military discipline, how hard is it to socialize when you have no time for it and how big is the pressure provoked by higher productivity objectives.

Like many African migrants in my country, Foxconn kids only want their parents to believe they are successful. And the only thing that matters for these children is their salary, not even themselves.

Bigger pressure? As westerners say: no pain, no gain. During a 3 months trial period and owing to Taiwanese consultants, Foxconn workers’ productivity has been gradually risen. This little 17 years old girl with a red heart (see below) checks the quality of the expansive HP ink cartridges… 28 0000 a day (!), 40% more than last Summer. While working, she doesn’t have to think nor to open her eyes, she just has to breathe and let her fingers feel the cartridges as fast as possible.

Every single minute is now scientifically maximised. Because she has been trained for that and she has now much more value than any sophisticated machine in the eyes of Foxconn, she won’t be able to change position during her stay here. She will be doing the same movement for the next three years, 3 years being the average lenght for any worker in Foxconn, before they get worn out.

We also met Ling Hui Ping on the way to the factory. He told us he was on the Iphone assembly line. He is coming from Hunan, his parents are crop farmers. At 20h30, after listening politely to his managers comments and criticisms, after cleaning his workshop perimeter, it’s time for this 18 years old boy to rush to his dorm, alone. Because Foxconn city is so big, it can easily take half an hour to get back home. At 21h30, he will only enjoy one hour to empty his head and get a life: calling his family, taking a shower before his dorm lights are turned off. Outside,  famous brands like “Lining”, “Baleno”, “Nokia” have been inaugurating there shops for a few weeks and been playing electronic music like hell, in an attempt to attract workers and get the most out of their new purchasing power. Mc Donald is said to arrive soon. Tonight, our friend may be able to sleep, or not. He has one dream: to collect enough money and start a small business, in his home town. “Probably, a phone shop“.

On Internet, young Chinese people in the cities enjoy making fun of these mingong life style: they love flashy clothes, fluffy hairstyle, cheesy pop songs, romantic films. On their day off, they are fresh, smiling and positive. At first sight, you would never guess what they endure. Foxconn kids have been assigned to packed dorms with people from different shifts, differents workshops, different hometowns, giving them rare occasions to know each other.

(below: guards never say goodbye. They just check women’s bags as they leave the workshop after the night shift)

However, a friend at China Labour Bulletin recently told me that owing to the pay rise, it was actually the first time he could see a smile on Foxconn’s workers face during their day off.

He is right. Once a week, on their day off, owing to their bigger salary, workers are able to treat themselves and enjoy simple pleasures like a funny haircut or a good candy. They like showing up on the bridge upon Foxconn main gate which now looks like a catwalk. Some workers get spiritual and spend their only day off praying together, with the risk of being evangelized by some foolish priest . Some are left alone. But lots of them were willing to talk to us and describe their everyday life… some would mention face-losing punishments : when something is missing on the assembly line, one has to stand up during 6 hours, nose to the wall.

All right. Terry Gou, Foxconn CEO and Taiwanese billionaire, has delivered on his promise to increase salary at Longhua: workers now get 3200 yuans per month, including overtime. It’s a very good salary indeed, even better than the salary of graduate people in many cities. The strikes at Honda Foshan and the pressure from Shenzhen and Guangdong governements to prevent any threat to their sacred “Harmonious society” did help. But one have to take into account the sharp rise of food prices in China: +11.7% in November, +10.9% in October.

Fragile Foxcoon workers are supposed to be offered psychological support through a hotline phone number. 1/ the calls are not anonymous at all as you must give your name and the number of your workshop BEFORE telling about your problem. 2/Franz Kafka may laugh as these psychologists are simply other workmates who have been offered this unusual position overnight after a quick book training. This leads to unsolvable situations. One worker that we met in a shop said “2 months ago, I mentionned a difficulty to the hotline. The week after, my manager knew about it and said it was no longer his responsibility any more since i had decided to deal with that with the assistants. He has lost his trust in me“.

On the otherside, a new recruitement center has been built to hire workers for the new factories in Henan or Sichuan where salaries and production costs will be lower. If Foxconn doesn’t change its practices, local governements might eventually do something. Chengdu, which is going to welcome hundred thousands of workers for Foxconn new plant has promised it will reduce hukou disparities between migrants workers and local urban people, given them and their relatives a access to education and health care.

And in case any social protest happens, Foxconn will be able to rely on People’s Liberation Army’s support. The folks are setting up a small artillery regiment… just two blocks away from Longhua factory’s main gate. Merry Christmas !

Solutions

Some of you will think that it’s always better to have a job than nothing, that these young people will be helpful for their whole family, that it’s worse in Bengladesh, Philippines or in some western suburbs.  It’s a blog, it’s my opinion and i am seeing this from a different perspective. If i want to focus on Apple, it’s not for my glory but because i am using this brand which i appreciate very much, like more and more Chinese people here (I live in Beijing but i am always stunned to see the long queues at the Sanlitun village Apple store at 10 am, where a Iphone easily costs a 1 month salary).

Apple’s prices are very high (and similar whether you’re Chinese or American), its products are all the same whatever the market and yet, this successful and trendy brand fails to have a global staff strategy. But when it comes to cost cutting, Apple doesn’t mind offering third world treatments.

I can understand HP’s position since we all enjoy very cheap hp products (well, apart from cartridges) but for Apple, for all its fuss, its support from the media when the Ipad came out… no. We should make corporate social responsibilty a rule and force Steve Jobs to find a supplier who would give visible exemplary working conditions to its production team (not 80 to 100 hours a week). Big companies which build their image through innovation should also innovate in terms of labour practices. Steve Jobs… are you a pioneer or not? Here, we’re back to the old Industrial revolution…

(Iron bars on windows are part of Chinese cheap modern architecture to prevent theft. What is new since i first came last May are the extra steel wire (below), the nets and the fences on the roofs).

On day off, outside the dorms, Foxconn seems so far away.

Brands are now trying to attract Foxconn workers in front of their dormitories, after the 67% pay rises. In May, such events did not exist. These mingong make these phones too… but they won’t get a discount.

Here is a fake Foxconn job offer that proposes only 5 working days, no unpaid overtime and bigger  basic salary. When we call them they ask for a 500 rmb commission fee … only to bring you at the Foxconn job center.

Below: an unregistered home church on the first floor of a gloomy dormitory. The priest is Taiwanese and is traveling from one factory to another to “evangelize” people. In China, religious activities are under the control of the Chinese governement, obviously not here.

jordan pouille

Friends, these pictures are copyright.  Please email me first in case you are interested in using/buying them.

 

Here is my short video teaser with French subtitles, a short introduction of the La Vie story, that appears on their website You will note in the video how a underground home church looks like or that a 18 years old worker can make up to 3000 iphones a day. Not more, it’s only a teaser ;-)

* the original title of my blog post was “Why I don’t want a Iphone for christmas” but i decided to change it on December 26th after receiving dozens of insults from Apple addicts. However, it is a personnal blog post, where i am free to express my opinion. I still believe Foxconn is definitely not a nice place for a Chinese educated teenagers to live and work. I have been working in China for 2 years and a half. Like ALL correspondents, I like traveling with an interpreter. No only when it comes to use cantonese or a dialect but because this person will help to establish friendship and confidence between me and the worker who has probably never met a “laowai” (= foreigner) before.
* 2015 January. I changed the headline again, from “For Foxconn workers, money doesn’t buy happiness” which didn’t really make sense to “The hard life of a Chinese high-tech labour worker”. Since this post, I went 3 times again to Foxconn, in Shenzhen, Chongqing and Chengdu. And explain in it a book called “Le Tigre et le Moucheron: sur les traces de Chinois indociles” (Nov. 2014 – Les Arènes)

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73 Responses to The hard life of a Chinese high-tech labour worker

  1. roy says:

    Not to defend Foxconn, but realize that you are witnessing in China today what happened in US / Europe 100 years ago. These kids are at Foxconn because the alternative in their hometown is much worse. Other factories in China are much worse than Foxconn too. Look at the whole picture. It is tragic to be poor, and China has several hundred million tragedies in production right now.

  2. admin says:

    Dear Roy

    Thanks for your comment.

    As a journalist, I have seen extreme misery in many chinese provinces, from the Beijing suburbs to a remotive desertified village in Ganzhou province, from corrupted Tianjin to a 50′s style coal mine in Heilongjiang province, from countryside in innermongolia to campuses in guangzhou.

    But when you’re talking about Europe 100 years ago, i can only think about my home region in North of France where you had coal and textile industry. Poverty was huge but you had paternalism and a strong sense of solidarity between workers that you can still feel in today’s North of France culture.

    Here, in this high tech factory supplying all of us, everything has gone. The only issue is how many products these kids will make and how much money they will make at the end of the month. The BIG problem in Foxconn is not the salary but the scientific and military discipline that considers talking, smiling, socializing as a pitfall to productivity. Remember these workers cannot choose their dorm, they are mixed with guys from different provinces, differents workshops and different shifts (day or night). After they sleep, they can only rush to the factory and do the same movement for 3 years without any chance to switch position, unless your manager that you are not allowed to speak to, suddenly decides so. + the gigantic dimension and the loneliness of new comers. It’s very hostile environnement that i would not recommend to the childrens of my biggest enemy. Then it must be also our responsibility as a consumer to make sure this doesn’t exist. A pay rise doesn’t fix this issue at all.

  3. GeoffQ says:

    This really is just amazing and sad. I have linked this story on my blog and added that this world we live in is a little odd. We get so emotional and change our buying habits around the life the chicken led to lay the egg (free range or caged) yet we dont care about what production workers are going through to manufacture our iPhone or PSP?
    Are we valuing chickens more than humans or is it that we are content knowing we spent an extra 50c on free range eggs rather than do something about each other?

  4. admin says:

    Dear Mike

    Do i give the impression that i blame the workers for going there?? They are extremely brave, generous, friendly and they have much more strengh than i will never have. Some even have a university degree. (well, also because graduates in big cities now get VERY low pay because of the harsh competition. I know a Chinese friend who studied in France 3 years and is now paid 3500 rmb per month in Ningbo for a sourcing job)

    What i am saying (and please do read to my response to Roy above) is that Foxconn, owned by billionaire taiwanase Terry Gou and paid my OUR brands, is keeping on getting rid every while employing young workers. When you get there my friend, you barely sleep, you barely speak, your brain is off and you’re “lost in translation” among 300 000 workers. It’s not a coal mine, it’s the present and the future of our consumer society (where they are making the Ipad2 by the way)…. Do we still want our stuff to be made like this, in fear? Unlike Honda in Foshan, people here will never get on strike. They are just too scared of punishment.

  5. Jing says:

    Hello I am a Chinese high school student who is studying in th U.S. as an exchange student now. Although I really feel sorry for things like that happening in the country that I deeply love, I have to admit that what you said about Foxconn is true.

    While I don’t think buycotting will help. Ipods and PSPs are just one of the many products that are made in China–the world factory. According to my own experience in the U.S.in the past few months, more than 80% of the goods I see here are labelled “made in China”. Even if we could successfully boycott Ipods, could we possibly get rid of the clothes and toys made in China and so many other stuff in our daily life?

    And I think factories in which these goods are made might not be much better than Foxconn, if not even worse. The reason why Foxconn was exposed to the public may be that it is a really huge and famous factory. Such a factory with 300,000 workers will have much more chance to have some worker commit suicide than those little factories with several hundred workers. And also because it’s famous the public got to know what had happened soon after the first suicide. But we should admit that there are so many little and medium factories out there. Maybe they are even worse. We just don’t have an access to know about them. It’s not that I don’t have faith in my country. It’s just because China is such a vast and polarized country. There are so many voices that cannot be heard.

    I said that boycotting couldn’t help, but I honestly don’t what will be helful because the world does need a “world factory” to meet all its needs. If it’s not China, it might be Indonesia or India. Maybe this is something that we have to face in a capitalism world. It gotta be some rich and some poor, some sitting in the office and some working at a production-line.

    All the above is just opinions of a Chinese girl. I love my people and my country, so I really want to do something for them. I am really glad to see that people all around the world are talking about it cuz it means we have more chance to work about something to at least improve the situation.

  6. Green says:

    The deep pockets of Mr. Steve Jobs and the people who pay the price.

  7. zato says:

    Green wrote: “The deep pockets of Mr. Steve Jobs and the people who pay the price.”

    And the A holes haters who make A hole comments.

  8. Actually this ties to a most important issue right now which has a direct connection to the future and well being of each and every one of us.

    Consider this: there is an economical crisis, which puts our future in peril because the new land owners harvest organs from living people without any moral constraint. http://organharvestinvestigation.net/ (yes these communists they are strong headed atheist, without any moral code)

    So how do we get the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to be the new land owners of the world? They achieve this by undermining our job competitiveness with the fact that they use slaves in Labor Camps (real ones not the one presented here) and terrorize the biggest nation on earth (China), so the majority will be willing to work for 40euro a month. Here these kids are actually lucky to get 365 euro after the raise.

    Wall Mart and every other big business which are usually led by only a few, make huge profits by undermining our competitiveness. Consider this they take a big profit by selling us a lot of stuff that we can not possibly make that cheap. What would it mean for me to work for 40 to 365euro/month? That would mean to ask for trouble, like no real food, no heat, no money for rent unless I’m compelled to live in a concentration camp. However in the current condition if I we refuse to work for this petty money it means that all the money moves to a regime that forces their people into just that.

    This is crazy and this can happens only because people don’t know what is happening in China. If they would only know about all the crimes it committed during it’s rain, about the severity of the Cultural Revolution, the killing of students in Tiananmen, it’s persecution of the human rights activists and renowned lawyers like Gao Zhisheng, the persecution against the Tibetan and Uigur minorities, the persecution against Falun Gong who merely stand for Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance, they would understand that this regime is extremely afraid. It is afraid because it lied continually for over 60 years to mislead people into accepting, and also brutally killed over 80 million of it’s own people just to maintain it’s power (more then in world-war one and two). People should know all these and wake up and save themselves from the communist terror that is spreading so fast now.

    China is already having a lot of money considering how much was pumped into it, and now it starts to buy influence in all countries, by “offering loans” with conditions. Whoever has the money has the power to decide the big things and if he wants can make even bigger and more cruel cages.

    In simple terms a few people sell out morality (by doing business with totalitarian regimes who terrorize their people and keep them slaves) and they are forcing us to buy stuff that will forfeit our jobs. It also means that we allow our selfs to be mislead by the dangerous misconception that: “Since if I’m fine now, I don’t care about others now”. That is most shortsighted and dangerous attitude that one can have. Martin Luther King said that “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” Seeing how things relate to each other, well, he had a valid point.

    Wake up! Let everyone know! Demand that human dignity must be upheld everywhere!
    read: http://ninecommentaries.com/

  9. Inst says:

    For the demographic, it’s lower than the corresponding suicide rate for the United States.

    9.9 / 100,000 for 15-24, 12 / 100,000 for 25-35. 12/400,000 would map to 3/100,000.

    I’m more agitated that Western labor activists almost seem as though they were engaged in a plot to keep Third-worlders poor. These people are making much more than their parents made, and with the money they make they can afford to put their own children to better schooling, and hopefully for better jobs than factory production.

    The only reason this matter is being changed is because the Chinese government feels the need to increase domestic consumption and reduce wealth inequality, and at this point they have less incentive to use this type of factory as a method of transferring wealth to managers and owners.

  10. Guil Do says:

    @Matt. Numbers are beautiful aren’t they?

  11. tomcat says:

    Hi
    The article is interesting, but only as a novelty for some people, not because of the 13h shifts or Apple or Chine. I saw people in Canada working overtime, 12h a day, 6 days a week, beeing sent home by the supervisor at the end of the 12 hours. All this for 9-10 cad/h. They were canadians, indians, russians, polish, romanians. They did this for money too. Is there any diffenernce, after all? How many of us are doing 10-12h a day, minimum, weekends and so on, in a big corporation? In France, this might be a shock (I know a french girl working for Bell in Montreal, shocked by the working style) but in countries like USA, Canada is the same thing, sometimes.
    BTW, thos canadians were building parts for airplanes, medical equipement. Let me guess, we shouldn’t fly again or seek for medical assistance?

  12. Bill says:

    Interesting article – thanks for your hard work. Having lived in Asia in the last year, I found one aspect of the video by the French journalist a little on the misleading side.

    Re: Bars on the windows.

    Most apartment buildings have bars on their windows – irrespective of life on the ground floor or all the way to the top. My wife and I always found them to be an eyesore. Chinese people tend to maximize the space by hanging up plants, curing meat (literally! Weird, but practical), drying laundry, eating breakfast, anon.

    The journalist presented pictures of typical architecture and then framed it in the context of the bars having been exclusively installed at the behest of Foxconn so as to prevent the burgeoning rash of suicides. I don’t doubt that some bars may have been installed for that specific reason, but much of what was filmed and subsequently presented is common throughout China and Taiwan – even in areas where Foxconn is not the principal employer.

    That having been said, I certainly agree with the spirit of the article, in that dehumanization for the benefit of ‘developed nations’ is alive and well – and is for all intents and purposes appalling.

    It is as Voltaire once stated: ‘…The rich need an abundant supply of the poor…’ The fundamental truth is that wealth will always be created on the backs of the desperate and impoverished.

  13. Rick says:

    Economic reforms in China has led to hundreds of millions of people coming out of poverty. As hard as they may have to work, do you think they would prefer going back to a lifestyle of making ends barely meet on a day to day basis?
    I think not. My guess is you are trying to make a case for unionization, which may not be possible in a communist country.

    These people are working hard, they are provided with a place to stay and they get paid. For most of them that is good enough. If we had that kind of work ethic in the US, without the unions, companies like GM would not have been on the verge of collapse. Unfortunately we don’t, so we have to outsource.

  14. Rares says:

    Thank you so much for the article! I used to see myself as opressed while working in a Nokia factory from Romania, but it seems that I was really lucky compared to these people. I am so impressed, think of the fact that these multinational companies ruin the lives of these youngsters! I was damn lucky, I was fired from that factory and got accepted in MA programme at Central European University. Tell you my opinion: these very strict regulations are culturally related, are not the fault of foreign owners. For example,the workers in the Nokia factory were not treated like the ones from Germany or Finland, but were mocked in a Romanian manner by Romanian staff. So all this happens because of greedy, narrow minded Chinese bosses. Let`s not forget the Chinese authorithies: why the hell would you allow a working schedule of 13 hours, 7 days a week?! Perhaps because you want cheap labor and don`t care about human dignity.

  15. florienb says:

    My friend,

    Your title should say WHY I WANT AN IPHONE FOR CHRISTMAS, not the other way around. Why? Well, if u feel sorry for all those ppl working over there, then u should at least buy what they are making, so they can get payied and buy something to eat, go out, have fun, LIVE.

    We all know that life is rough in Chine, heck, they are more over there than all the leaves in a all the trees in USA, who knows.. But having a place to work and live is something for them, and it should be for us too, considering the conditions..

    So, in conclusion, buy an iPhone, give them a paycheck, buy them something to eat, get them a night out with their friends.. Don’t be a selfish prick.

    Cheers

  16. Steve Jobs says:

    foxconn makes devices for many companies
    including Dell, HP, and others

    look, America runs planet earth

    period

  17. Tongzhi says:

    I am very often in China and I have seen many factories. I have not been in Foxconn but I believe it’s one of the best factories in Asia. Generally the working conditions in electronics factories are much better then, let’s say, in garment or metal factories.

    Your pictures are taken by random and you can find also misery in any larger factory in France or USA – if you look for it. There are now cameras that can detect smiles, you should consider one. But talking a good factory bad is not a good way.

    I would rather go after the brick factories that keep mentally disabled people as slaves like this one: http://news.163.com/photoview/00AP0001/12396.html

  18. Tongzhi says:

    PS: Matt Johnston raises also an very interesting point as the Foxconn suicide is rate is lower then the national average. We should ask: What does Foxconn do right to have such a low rate?

  19. America Me says:

    And if the GOP and the Tea Parties accomplish their goals of gutting labor protections in this country, this article is a preview of the future of the USA. It was unionization and Federal Labor Law protections that removed those dire conditions for most Americans over the past 100 years. But the GOP and their Bankers want to take us back to that. Wake up, America!!!

  20. Goofball Jones says:

    Wow, what a great site! I had no idea.

    I’m assuming this is the very last web-post from Jordan Pouille as he cannot continue in good conscience to use any technology. The very machine he wrote this blog on was made under these very same conditions. The cameras he uses are the same (unless he uses Leica film cameras).

    That’s too bad, he seemed to be a passionate writer. Well, thank you Mr. Pouille, we’ll miss you. Just make sure you dispose of your computer and camera equipment in a green, environment-friendly manner as that’s a whole other story about how we ship our electronic waste over to China to break down. It would be interesting to see what Mr. Pouille will do now for a living since giving up on technology.

    I mean, seriously, as I said you can’t in good conscience keep using the very things you’re writing about else you’d be a hypocrite. I’m sure you don’t want that. After writing such an article, you couldn’t ever justify keeping on doing what you’re doing. You know…talk the talk and walk the walk.

  21. Juan says:

    I have an iPhone 4 but it’s really bad and sad that a company like apple as big as it is it needs to do that.. Steve job I understand why apple it’s so big right now cause it’s using humans like robots. No breaks no nothing just built the phone .. As a major company u should be responsible for every person working there.. It’s a shame for apple and it’s partners that there making money by playing w lifes.. Steve job y don’t u move from supplier from china to USA .. Y not give us a good reason not a money reason.. Don’t call apple innovation it should be called apple where humans are slave.. W out foxconn as a supplier for apple apple would have not been where it is now.

  22. yo says:

    Look, nothing’s worth killing yourself. I wouldn’t even kill myself if I were a democrat. I’d look for a way out.

  23. James says:

    I do agree that this counts as sensationalist journalism.

    If you spend the smallest amount of energy researching labor practices in America during the industrial revolution you will find that conditions were much, much worse. China’s economy is simply that far behind. India was the place to outsource, but their economy has matured and companies have had to move elsewhere to get cheap labor. This is the natural economic and social progression. Perhaps more critical focus should be on the Chinese government and how it has retarded and stunted it’s own growth.

    They are afraid to strike, just as American workers were afraid to strike because of government violence and ‘bought’ politicians. It will work itself out as the government responds to the people’s demands.

    Do some background research on labor rights over the past century and a half and you’ll see the same progression throughout different societies.

  24. Web@0 says:

    First of all pictures and vides that you shared are pretty normal. Being from a fast developing country like india..I dont find anything alarming in this article..looks like you are trying to make a story by showing to American people..the pictures that they may not have seen..I don’t think that’s the right approach of yours.

    If I understand correctly you want to expose the militaristic nature of the regime and it’s impact on the people. Every country in the world has gone through this cycle of having these kind of governments..it takes own time for people of that country and realize on it’s own..some country learn faster from other countries. In case of china this story will not make any dent on Americans..we are materialistic country ruled by materialistic CEO’s…

    I am really confused…you are tryingto change whome..think yourself and you will get the answer on your own…there is no point in blaming others..we did the same..are you out of touch of the new world..good luck.

  25. peter says:

    Jordan,

    Roy is correct that this exact thing occured in the United States in the past. History usually repeats itself.

    Research for book entitled The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. It was partly responsible for labour reform when the public was made aware of the practices going on in the meatpacking industry.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jungle#Public_and_federal_response

  26. brigitta says:

    i don’t know if is now the right time for trying to find which were the reason of Admin to refere the name of the article to Aplle. The real facts unfortunately the Chinese are suffering and we must support them through praying. I do not know what else we can do for.

  27. brigitta says:

    sorry i refered to Jordan

  28. bill says:

    instead of writing about foxconn, you should write about the diamond mines. conditions there are much worse

  29. Mirela says:

    Hi,
    I think is very easy to see :it’s a jail and our life is for Big Boss to make money and if I learn to be good and be brave is similar to be sucker .Only way is to can chance this case and I think is not our chance to do this.May be next generation will have a new life, now we live in one big jail . But I want to say is easy to change our life , we must try in our power .

    our

  30. Mirela says:

    Hi,
    I think is very easy to see :it’s a jail and our life is for Big Boss to make money and if I learn to be good and be brave is similar to be sucker .Only way is to can change

    this case and I think is not our chance to do this.May be next generation will have a new life, now we live in one big jail . But I want to say is easy to change our life , we must try in our power .

  31. JT Lin says:

    I saw the workers singing Hossanna …. , i also saw our Lord Cross are display in the room , are they Christian ?
    Mr Admin , pls describe more about that situation ..Thank you.. and Merry Christmas all…

  32. bryan says:

    Wow, I am paying $599 for an iPhone 4 with 32GB while Apple pay dirty cheap salary to workers and a cheap parts that China made total $140 for an iPhone and a 30minutes build by worker….shipping to USA and sell to us $599.99. Thats so sick! 80% profit off us and China people too. GREED!

  33. Brian says:

    No kidding…
    Who enjoy the products… U do not have any right to criticise those things. EU and US products’ MC is just 25%~35% or so. And who eat 75%?
    Foxconn working condition is better than the others. Please do not see the superficial things only. I do not work for Foxconn and not a Chinese. But I want to say this… for example, donation wristlets for Africa, its cost is cents. And they sell it maybe 10 dollars or something. They give just a few dollars for African. Who eat the rest of them?

  34. admin says:

    Dear CuriousAnon

    I am sorry but as a professionnal photojournalist, i do not give away my pictures blindly whether it’s a story about coal miners, farmers, foxconn workers or activists… or i won’t do this job very long. I hope you understand my point.

    Thank you
    Jordan

  35. Hwang Yun Taek says:

    It was sad and pityful story. maybe somebody is working the worst place, isn`t it?

  36. admin says:

    so what? I have studied industrial revolution too. At that time India was a colony… I don’t think China is. These labour practices should be a thing of the past.

  37. admin says:

    Dear mister Hwang Yun Taek

    You are absolutely right as you will always find worse (check this site next month) but it is bad enough for me.

    Merry christmas
    Jordan Pouille

  38. admin says:

    Dear mister James

    We ‘did’ the same… so this shall belong to the past. Why would we ask other countries to stick to these labour practices just for the sake of cheaper electronics. There is always a point to show the reality and start discussion like this. If some people think it’s good enough to treat people like this in 2010 to satisfy our high tech consuming desires, billionnaire terry gou ceo will like this. I won’t. But unfortunately, i cannot work with Apple so i will have to keep on being their customer before a socially responsible competitor comes out.

  39. admin says:

    All right mister Goofball

    So journalists shall not report about the dark sides of whatever (clothes, bank practices, gm food) unless they don’t use them?

    If a high tech company is willing to care about the producers of its phones as well as its innovation staff, i will be happy no to buy apple anymore. And believe me or not but Lenovo is said by workers to have better practices than Foxconn (i.e Apple, Acer, Dell, Hp, etc…). Unfortunately, it’s very hard to investigate.

    We are in a global society where we still have no choice. There is a long long way to CSR

    Yours,
    Jordan

  40. admin says:

    Dear mister Tongzhi

    I don’t really know if its your sense of patriotism that makes you appear like a strong supporter of such labour practices. However, i am sure you would do your best not to send your child to work at Foxconn. I am not blaming the Chinese governement. it’s our western responsibility as customers (the clients like Apple, Nokia, HP, etc…)

    Best regards
    Jordan Pouille

  41. admin says:

    Dear mister Tongzhi

    My issue here is not poverty, it’s labour practices.

    And I am very sorry but you will not find such labour practices (and on such a large scale) in France because people won’t accept to be treated like this; unless they are unfortunately illegal and/or underground.

    And yes, you still find slavery in china in 2010 which is a bit of a worry.

    Regards,
    Jordan

  42. lambor says:

    However,Western countries get the most profits of Ipnone or something else. I live in GuangZhou.

  43. Inst says:

    The problem is a question of alternatives; if the Foxconn employees are being deceived and entrapped in their working conditions I wholly support reform of the situation. On the other hand, if they choose to work like this, then you’re actually harming the employees by pushing for change. The only reason they’re working in such conditions is because no alternatives exist for them. Alternatives don’t exist because they’re poorly-educated and in a society where there is not enough money to spend on social welfare just so blue-collar laborers and service-persons can buy iPods and X-Boxes.

    People in East Asia are supposed to be prone to OCD. They like to do one thing at a time, and work very hard at it. It’s their cultural inheritance from rice agriculture; when you had a field of work that was very demanding in expertise and labor in a society where high population counts led to high difficulty in making ends meet. If they want to OCD-ishly throw away 10-15 years of their life working in a sweatshop for what to them appears to be good wages, then why stop them?

    I’m wondering if you’re putting a French perspective into this. Part of the difference between Europe and United States in earnings is not the productivity, intelligence, or capital availability of the different cultures, but rather the work-life balance that people seek. The Americans work more (part of income inequality in the United States), to the detriment of their family life, so that they also earn more. The Chinese seem to be like this, and they’re in an economic situation where moderately increased income DOES bring additional happiness, so where is the problem?

  44. Inst says:

    “However, i am sure you would do your best not to send your child to work at Foxconn.”

    If he’s part of the demographic that can post online in English, he’s not going to send his child to work at Foxconn because his child would not need to go to work at Foxconn. It’s the peasantry that must do so, in order to urbanize and thus increase the opportunity for subsequent generations.

    I have my limits, of course. If the business is physically harmful to its workers, such as coal mining, or labor-intensive chemical work, then I’m ambivalent about whether or not it’s justified. On one hand, it must necessarily pay well for the level of personal expertise because people are throwing away their lives or health for it, but at the same time they are throwing their lives and health for money. Are the laborers truly aware of the risks they’re running? And if the economic condition is one of permanent exploitation, with an aim towards perpetuating serfdom without enabling upward-mobility, then I can’t support such a structure.

    But as it is, what we’re discussing is a sweatshop that recruits rural migrants with limited skills and pays them well compared to their earnings at home. This meets my upward-mobility requirement. It’s also reasonably safe labor in an assembly line; it’s not working with hazardous chemicals like in plywoods or getting suffocated in a coal mine. That meets the safety requirement.

  45. Tongzhi says:

    @Admin
    >I don’t really know if its your sense of patriotism that makes you appear like a strong supporter of such labour practices.

    I have to chuckle, I’m no China sympathizer at all. But I wonder what “labour practices” you refer to. Yes, people need to work for their money, that concept is not that unusual. Wages are above average, working conditions are clean and safe and fully air-conditioned.

    ….and:

    >”Wow, I am paying $599 for an iPhone 4 with 32GB while Apple pay dirty cheap salary to workers and a cheap parts that China made total $140 for an iPhone and a 30minutes build by worker….shipping to USA and sell to us $599.99. Thats so sick! 80% profit off us and China people too.”

    There are a few fallacies. Firstly Apple does not pay the workers, they are paid by Foxconn. The spread between parts cost and sales price is not the profit, there is inbetween:

    Very hefty R&D cost
    Components costs
    Assembly costs
    Distribution costs
    Sales taxes

    There is no doubt that Apple makes a good profit, but it’s far less then 80%, maybe ~20%, which is still hefty though.

  46. Robert says:

    We look at this as something tragic and awful. Look around and think because that IS the way it will be in the U.S. in order to compete. This IS what traitor trade treaties do to US citizens. All that we fought for is out the door thanks to Republicans and Democrats. Good job guys…

  47. Jean-Francois Morf, Charrat, Switzerland says:

    Perhaps the economic war is better then the conventional war: These 17-19 years old lives like in recruit barraks, becomes like a military pay, obeys to military guardians. Better then Paris suburbs jobless juvenile delinquents. Better then the 24 suicides for France Telecoms alone. After 3 years hard working they becomes part off the 20% China jobless! Highschools should (worldwide) teach exclusively firms creations, until 1% jobless is reached!

  48. wendysfriend says:

    You mention that these workers generally leave after three years, where do they go after quitting?

  49. Jose says:

    Hi, you seem to be French. You can find exactly the same conditions in France too.

    Do you try to convince us that there is no low class workers on France too?

    People who spend live only working?

    People who expect to work out of the misery? who tell they parents they live better that what they live?

    I have been on some places on France that are way WORSE that what you photograph on China.

    So, your solution is not buying Iphones, so this people will have to live a rural live that is way harder than working making tech for west societies(they decided it because it is better that live in their origin place).

  50. Frob says:

    Jordan,
    I am also French, and like you i spent some time working in china, not taking photos or writing articles about things i thought i understood but working as a responsible manager in a factory which also produced mobile phones. It was 10 years ago but at that time Foxconn was already the huge company it is stil. Even though we tried our best to influence local managers to manage the company according to european standards, you cannot ignore what happens elsewhere in China. The main issues we had do deal with were recruitment and turnover : as you know, chinese youngsters are able to move 500 km away to earn 50 rmb more, and they usualy send more than 50% of their salary back to their families. I strongly respect them for that and i am confident the Foxconn employees would quit if there were better conditions anywhere else. Foxconn as a company works for many worlwide brands which have great interest in social responsibilities (even though this interest is generaly motivated by how harmfull it would be for their customers to discover in how bad working conditions the products are assembled), and i believe it is the best way to pull Chinese working conditions upwards. Sony Ericsson also works with Foxconn and their social responsability code is available online : check it out…

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