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  • Suicide Rash May Prompt Major Pay Hike for iPhone Makers

    In recent weeks on MMi, we've covered the unfortunate rash of suicides that have plagued a Shenzhen factory of iPhone manufacturer Foxconn. So far in 2010, at least ten individuals have died at the manufacturing complex referenced. As a a result of those deaths - half of which occurred this month - there have been multiple inquiries about working conditions at the factory as well as substandard wages - factors that may have contributed to the wave of tragic suicides.

    As a result of harsh public criticisms and ongoing investigations, there are reports this weekend that a 20% pay raise may come to iPhone makers in Shenzhen, where the minimum monthly wage is between $132 and $146. The Irish Times reports that Foxconn employees are paid a base salary of $132, that's according to data collected by China Labor Watch, a New York-based outfit that champions civil and workers rights in China. To date, those overseeing the working conditions at the factory are bitterly denying that the environment is similar to that of a “sweatshop.”

    When news of the suicides first became public, Apple issued a statement noting that “we require that our suppliers treat all workers with dignity and respect.”

    Although it appears to the outside world that extremely harsh working conditions and low pay were all but certainly major contributing factors to the suicides, Communist Party officials and other local labor union officials are still pouring over information gleaned from their May 26th on-site investigation at the factory. For now, no municipal government officials are blaming wage and working conditions on the the deaths.

    Image via New York Daily News
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Suicide Rash May Prompt Major Pay Hike for iPhone Makers started by Michael Essany View original post
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. nhoj_yelbom's Avatar
      nhoj_yelbom -
      Quote Originally Posted by confucious View Post
      The Suicide rate in China is, I believe, about 13 per 100,000
      The Foxcon complex employs 3-400,000 people so you're looking at 39 - 52 deaths a year if they meet the average for China.
      How is 10 deaths in 5 months excessive?
      1 death is 1 too many but this story does seem to be exaggerating the problem somewhat.
      i agree 100%, could not say better

      Quote Originally Posted by Faxmonkey View Post
      Foxconn only employs 300k in China, they employ another 100k elsewhere. Since they started counting they're up to 16 suicides and that wasn't long ago. We had almost like 1 more per day over the last week, if you weren't paying attention. So way more than 10 in 5 months . . .

      But moreover, the people who tend to kill themselves in don't tend to be young 20 somethings who are gainfully employed with families which pretty much all these people are. If you look at just these people outside of the sphere of Foxconn, they'd be at VERY low risk for suicide.

      There's clearly an issue. I know you want to just use your iPad and not think of it as something that may have contributed to someone elses unhappiness, but sometimes it's necessary to consider unpleasant realities.

      Conditions and pay aren't great anywhere in China, and that's why we get to enjoy cheap chinese made electronics. Foxconn, in particular, is just a victim of their own success. They have so many major deals going that they h ave to keep all their factories running 24 hours a day, and that means they need all their workers to work massive amounts of overtime. They do pay them for this overtime work, but they *require* it. Work overtime or go find another job. Many did go find other jobs, which makes the problem even worse. So now they're hiring nay shmuck with a pulse as long as they're willing to sign a paper saying they'll work 100 hours a week and these people's lives are basically "wake up, work, sleep" with no time for *anything* else.

      So why do they do it? Their families need the money. But come to find out, if an employee commits suicide, their family is given some money as compensation. Given that the money is significant and these people's lives has boiled down to *nothing* but work, it's not surprising that many are starting to take the easy way out and that's why we hear about another suicide practically *every* day of the last week. Sixteen was the last number I heard, but it was only 7 a couple weeks ago, so the rate is very, very high.
      they are doing it for there family, get money. its conditions in china not foxconn. have you seen the dog videos from there, check out how they treat animals. no need to get upset about people dying they have bigger problems over there
    1. iPhoneThereforeIAm's Avatar
      iPhoneThereforeIAm -
      Pressure to work inhumane numbers of hours might easily be the tinderbox required for the propagation of a suicide wave.
      Suicide can be psychologically 'contagious'.
      Google 'suicide' and 'Bridgend' - a town in Wales, UK where a suicide wave broke out amongst teenagers recently.
      There necessarily has to be a 'tinderbox' factor, whether it be economic/social privation or simple genetic predisposition in an area of low genetic diversity.
    1. Faxmonkey's Avatar
      Faxmonkey -
      Quote Originally Posted by nhoj_yelbom View Post
      they are doing it for there family, get money. its conditions in china not foxconn.
      I believe I said that this was not just a problem for Foxconn, but for most of the factory jobs in China. I'm not really singling Foxconn out, they've just, as I said, become a victim of their own success. They need so much labor in order to meet all their contracts that they have to mandate ridiculous amounts of overtime and its seriously reducing the quality of life for their workers to the point where they say "This can be the rest of my life, to support my family, or I can just jump off the building and they'll get a nice fat check from Foxconn in compensation."

      It's easy to see why some of them are doing what they're doing. They literally are doing nothing but work and sleep, and while working they are not allowed to socialize in any way. They are utterly isolated. Work has become their entire lives. It's not a happy existence and they only do it for the money. When there's a shortcut to the money that doesn't involve all the work and unhappiness . . . .

      But yes, there are probably many other factories in china that are worse off and many others that would be in the same situation if the only way they could meet their production quotas was to have shifts running 24 hours and force overtime to do it.

      have you seen the dog videos from there, check out how they treat animals. no need to get upset about people dying they have bigger problems over there
      Really? That's a bigger problem? I love animals too, but if it comes down to the standard of living for people vs animals, I'd rather attend to the welfare of people first.