Foxconn admits employing underage interns in China

Oct 17, 2012 by Benjamin Yeh

Taiwan's Foxconn has admitted employing children as young as 14 on assembly lines at a plant in China, a fresh blow to the tech giant that has been attacked over its treatment of staff after several suicides.

The company, which makes products for Apple and Sony, admitted it hired the underage workers as part of an internship programme, reflecting a practice said is widespread among enterprises in China.

"This is not only a violation of China's labour law, it is also a violation of policy," the company said in a statement late Tuesday, referring to Chinese rules that set the legal minimum age for workers at 16.

"Immediate steps have been taken to return the interns in question to their ," it added.

Foxconn, the world's biggest contract manufacturer, said it had carried out a probe at the plant in eastern Shandong province, which showed the interns in question, aged from 14 to 16, had worked in there for about three weeks.

A spokesman told AFP the interns had been mainly working on assembly lines at the plant.

"We have found no evidence of similar violations in any of our other campuses in China but we will not hesitate to take immediate action in any campus if any violations are discovered," it said.

The company issued the statement after Chinese media and US-based China Labor Watch reported on the use of underage workers at the plant.

Foxconn said it has long had a short-term internship programme carried out in cooperation with vocational schools and other educational institutions in China.

regulations bar vocational schools from sending first-year students on internships, but they have often violated these rules, another group, China Labour Bulletin, said in a report earlier this year.

"Given that first year students could be just 15 years old, such factories would technically be employing child labour in some cases," the report said.

Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for China Labour Bulletin, said interns formed a "cheap and convenient source of labour" that vocational schools are only too happy to provide as it helps boost their revenues.

"The enterprises tend to be factories that need more hands on the production line. There is no real training or apprenticeship involved here," he said.

represent approximately 2.7 percent of Foxconn's workforce of 1.2 million employees in China, the company said, but Crothall said he thought the number looked too low.

The situation in China now is comparable to the situation in neighbouring economies a few decades ago, including Taiwan, which issued rigid rules banning the employment of workers under 15 in 1984, observers said.

"China is repeating what happened in Taiwan in the 1970s and 1980s when the economy was taking off and needed a lot of labour," said Chu Wei-li, a spokesman for Taiwan's National Federation of Independent Trade Unions.

The news is the latest in a string of problems to beset Foxconn, which has frequently been targeted for its labour practices following a spate of in 2010 that activists blamed on tough working conditions, prompting calls for better treatment of staff.

And earlier this month it was hit by two labour disputes that saw thousands of people go on strike, which Labour Watch said was over increased product quality levels and demands that staff work through a national holiday.

Foxconn is the world's largest maker of computer components and assembles products for Apple and Sony as well as Intel and Nokia, among others.

Hong Kong-listed shares in Foxconn fell 1.35 percent to HK$2.92, while the Hang Seng index rose 0.94 percent in the afternoon.

In Taipei, shares in Foxconn's parent company Hon Hai Precision fell 0.23 percent to Tw$87.4, against a drop in the broader index of 0.09 percent.

Explore further: China investigating Microsoft in monopoly case

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Taiwan's Foxconn to open new plant in Brazil

Sep 19, 2012

Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn said Wednesday it is set to invest $492 million to build a new facility in Sao Paulo, Brazil to produce smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices.

Taiwan's Hon Hai looks to robot industry

Oct 31, 2011

The parent company of Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn plans to mass produce industrial robots as part of its efforts to cope with labour shortages and rising wages.

Foxconn cut from Hong Kong's benchmark index

Jun 08, 2011

Foxconn International, the world's biggest contract electronics supplier, has lost its blue-chip status after being dropped from Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index (HSI), an HSI official said Wednesday.

Hong Kong labour activists push for iPhone boycott

May 25, 2010

Hong Kong labour activists said Tuesday they plan to kick off a worldwide boycott of Apple's newest iPhone after a spate of suicides at a southern Chinese factory that makes the iconic device.

Recommended for you

Chinese smartphone makers win as market swells

7 hours ago

Chinese smartphone makers racked up big gains as the global market for Internet-linked handsets grew to record levels in the second quarter, International Data Corp said Tuesday.

Full appeals court upholds labels on meat packages

7 hours ago

(AP)—A federal appeals court has upheld new government rules that require labels on packaged steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat to say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

BlackBerry buys German anti-eavesdropping firm

7 hours ago

Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry announced Tuesday the purchase of German voice and data encryption and anti-eavesdropping firm Secusmart, whose customers include NATO and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ...

India's Flipkart raises $1 bn to tackle Amazon

9 hours ago

India's top e-commerce company Flipkart said Tuesday it had raised $1 billion (60 billion rupees) in funds as it battles US giant Amazon for supremacy in the hyper-competitive local market.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2012
Child labor is just one of Foxconn's many "comparative advantages". That's why we are and must continue to "free trade" with them in particular and their country in general. After all, with all the "comparative advantages" they have over us, it just follows logically that they are inherently and structurally better at making stuff. The inescapable economic logic is fool-proof, in that any fool will buy it (particularly when it's on sale at Walmart.) Free Trade FTW!!