As we all know, Foxconn manufactures more than 40 percent of the world’s electronics for companies such as Apple, Dell, and Amazon. Moreover, they are China’s largest and most prominent private employer, with 1.2 million workers. Controlled by Terry Gou, Foxconn has become a symbol of the struggle to improve conditions for workers. In recent years, Foxconn was put in the spotlight on this issue, and pledged to decrease working hours and increase wages. I decided that I wanted to look further into this company and see what they are up to now.
As a result of all of the negative press, progress is finally being made. The working conditions are in fact changing (forbes.com), but are they changing for the better? Foxconn has indeed scaled back on the number or workers they hire, and it now is shifting instead to increasing their productivity through robotics. Liu Kon, a spokesman for Foxconn, said in a China Daily story published two weeks ago that “the company had been on a steady course for a while to replace manpower with robotic systems.” However, there have still been scandals remerging from the company. As recent as 2012, Foxconn admitted to hiring underage workers.
A Foxconn worker was quoted saying, “Life is meaningless.” I think that when people read articles about the poor labor conditions, it is hard for them to comprehend and imagine the words. We often forget that these workers are individuals, with their own lives, problems and dreams. Imagine that these workers were your family members, not just thousands of people that you will never know. What if your family members were making these products and being treated so poorly? Would you use products manufactured at Foxconn if that was the case?
Companies such as Apple use Foxconn because it is one of the few that can meet their production requirements and churn out millions of devices each month. If they abandon their partnership with Foxconn, then that means fewer products. Apple has taken few steps to improve the conditions at Foxconn. They hired internal agents within the FLA to conduct audits of their supplier factories. These agents came up with plans that they believed would be helpful in correcting the issues within the Chinese factories where these Apple products are made. However, it does not seem that these investigations helped much at all, considering all of the negative press still coming out concerning Foxconn. Finally, The New York Times also reported that although Foxconn did not reveal how much they would raise wages, they did make a commitment that by July of 2013, no worker will labor for more than 49 hours per week. Foxconn has also promised that despite cutting hours, employees’ pay will not be reduced. I guess we will just have to wait and see if Foxconn actually keeps their promise. What do you all think? Will they keep their promises?