Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Business
11 October 2013updated 22 Oct 2020 3:55pm

Foxconn won’t change until the West stops sending mixed messages

Foxconn has admitted that it has been forcing student interns to work overtime.

By Bily Bambrough

Will anything change in light of the Foxconn labour violations admissions? Don’t bet on it. Foxconn won’t change until the West stops sending mixed messages about poor working conditions. We berate them with one breath and trip over ourselves to by the latest iPhone the next.

Foxconn has admitted that it has been forcing student interns to work overtime and nightshifts under pain of failing their college courses if they don’t comply.

Foxconn became known to the general public after the spat of suicides at the companies Chinese factories in 2010; after which the company went above and beyond to ensure employee well being, installing suicide nets to catch jumpers and return them safely to the happy and healthy working environment.

The Taiwanese company, listed in Taipei under the name Hon Hai Precision Industries, is the world’s largest consumer electronics maker, working with pretty much every major manufacturer and employing over a million people. Chances are, unless you are Amish, you’ll have used something made by Foxconn.

Some of the students involved spoke to the Chinese media, claiming that more than a thousand of them worked on putting together the upcoming Sony Playstation 4 as well as other basic tasks, none relevant to their studies or teaching them much outside of working in a Foxconn plant making Playstations.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

The West’s ability to block this kind of thing out of its collective consciousness signals how dependant we have come on cheap, semi-slave labour happening on the other side of the world.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

We must move away from the “it’s fine as long as it’s not happening in my backyard” mentality and let it be known to the tech giants that people won’t buy goods that people have been forced to make for little to no pay, under sub-human conditions.

This, of course, isn’t really possible for the individual. What does Foxconn care if I or even a few thousand people boycott their products? The only way we’ll see meaningful change is if Governments step in and demand reform. I’ll not hold my breath for that to happen.