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Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012, 12:23 pm

Foxconn Admits Using 14-Year-Old Laborers at Chinese Factory

By Jacob Marshall

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Workers at a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China.
(Steve Jurvetson / Wikimedia Commons)

The largest electronic components manufacturer in the world, Foxconn, has been caught in another scandal after admitting that one of its Chinese factories employs interns as young as 14, despite China’s minimum legal working age of 16. The Taiwanese company, which is Apple’s primary manufacturing partner and makes products for other companies such as Dell and Sony, acknowledged accusations leveled by Chinese media, as reported by the Guardian:

"Our investigation has shown that the interns in question, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, had worked in that campus for approximately three weeks," the company said.

"This is not only a violation of China's labour law, it is also a violation of Foxconn policy and immediate steps have been taken to return the interns in question to their educational institutions."

 … It made the announcement after investigating Chinese media reports of underage interns among its Chinese workforce of 1.2 million. It said it had found no evidence of similar violations at any of its other plants in China.

The “media reports” were prompted by U.S.-based activist group China Labor Watch’s investigation into Foxconn’s hiring practices over the summer at the factory in the northeastern city of Yantai. The group released a report on Monday accusing the company of hiring underage interns who were sent to the factory from schools without checking their IDs. An update posted the next day detailed how many of the interns were sent to the factory by teachers against their will, and included testimony of the harsh conditions they labored under, such as the following:

Xiao Wang said, “I did transport work, helping them move goods. Right now, the night shift is 7:40 PM until the morning...you know, til what time in the morning is uncertain. Whenever the work is done is when you get off your shift. If you don't finish the work, he (the production line foreman) won't let you end your shift. Usually, you can get off by 7 AM. My arms would hurt from the work.”

Foxconn’s Chinese factories have been subject to a number of labor-related controversies over recent years, including a strike at an iPhone 5 factory two weeks ago and a brawl at another facility last month, injuring 40 people. A spate of worker suicides in 2010 lead to international scrutiny of the company’s labor policies, revealing unfair overtime policies and abusive management reminiscent of “labor camp” conditions. Foxconn has agreed to increase wages and reduce overtime in response to the criticism, but further investigations by media and labor groups continue to put pressure on the manufacturer and its partners.

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