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In Xhengzhou, Thousands Vie For Foxconn Jobs 386

Posted by timothy
from the surely-they'd-prefer-the-farms-oh-wait dept.
hypnosec writes "Foxconn is supposedly looking to enhance its workforce in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou and despite the less-than-satisfactory working conditions in the company, thousands of aspirants are lining up for jobs in its factories. Not caring about the harsh working conditions at Foxconn, thousands of people congregated outside a labor office in Zhengzhou, the largest city of Henan province in North central China, impatiently waiting for a chance to work at Foxconn. Foxconn, which is engaged in assembling iPhones and iPads for Apple, is planning to hire an additional 100000 employees as it is aiming at augmenting its iPhone production."
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In Xhengzhou, Thousands Vie For Foxconn Jobs

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  • Foxconn suicides (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bonch (38532) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:44PM (#38905325)

    I don't get the exclusive association between Apple and Foxconn presented by the tech press. Foxconn is the world's largest electronics manufacturer and makes products for Dell, Sony, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, Microsoft, HP, and pretty much every other major computer-related company. The fact they're the largest also means that there really isn't much of an option for companies like Dell or Apple to stop using Foxconn, because nobody else can assemble products at the volume required.

    The Foxconn suicides [wikipedia.org] that originally drew so much media attention were the result of several external factors including several labor strikes and poor economic conditions throughout China in 2010. The working conditions are actually comparatively good for Chinese factories, and the suicide rate is less than that of the general population, but the idea of an industry darling like Apple using "slave labor" to make its products was a narrative too juicy for the media to ignore.

    Though investigations did find overtime and other managerial abuses by Foxconn (making them not unlike Walmart), it's amusing to see thousands lining up to work there in contradiction to the extremely negative portrayal by the Western media such as that offered by the first linked article in the summary.

  • Re:Foxconn suicides (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Riceballsan (816702) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:55PM (#38905479)
    I agree with you wholeheartedly on the apple connection to foxcon. It is close to the entire electronics industry to blame. I disagree with your statements on the conditions not being horrific. 36 hour shifts wages under a couple bucks an hour, living and working in the same place, jail time for mentioning the idea of a union etc... The long lines is because china is just so screwed up that these horrific conditions, are the best they can do.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:57PM (#38905521) Homepage

    Plantation slavery was not much different from the way these workers live in their dormitories. I would hazard a guess that slave owners actually generally cared about their slaves significantly more than Apple and FoxConn care about these workers. In fact, the very fact that workers aren't even allowed to socialize in their dormitories suggests to me that on balance, plantation slaves might have actually had more freedom since they were free to form families (who admittedly could be sold like slaves), socialize and often free to work for money once their field work was done.

    I say this not to defend plantation slavery as anything objectively good, but to note the irony that someone who defends FoxConn's treatment of workers while holding views antagonistic toward actual plantation slavery is being very hypocritical because on balance, these workers have it even worse. I'm white and if I had to choose between being a field slave in the South vs working under the conditions the FoxConn workers do with the sort of future that awaits them, hands down I'd choose to be a slave. At least then the master's tyranny would end at sun down.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:02PM (#38905643) Homepage

    Required reading on this very subject: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which was mostly about precisely this phenomenon in Chicago.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:04PM (#38905675) Journal
    While you may have a point that Apple is not the only company to point the finger at, I am amazed at the volume of iProducts that Apple moves and how quickly they move it. I had to order my Samsung Galaxy Nexus after driving from store to store to find out that they were sold out yet my friend was able to walk into a store after work and pick up the latest iPhone with no problem. How does this happen?

    I'm reminded of a recent Slashdot article [slashdot.org] that had an interesting passage to me:

    Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

    A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

    “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

    This raised many questions in my mind. Like whether or not other Chinese companies would respond with such force to a request? Is it just because Apple is so big that Foxconn takes these extreme measures? Are Foxconn employees experiencing longer shifts because of these pressures from Apple and, ultimately, Apple consumers?

    You're also missing a point that I found interesting from the This American Life episode on these plants. One group had gone to a village that did not have a Foxconn plant but was due to get one. They looked at the village and the quality of life of the people. It wasn't pretty. After the plant opened, after people got the jobs and after electricity and running water were forcefully brought for the purpose of the plant, life improved. Sure, pollution got worse but the group couldn't argue with people being better fed, having electricity and (more) potable water. Is this a good argument for Foxconn and Apple? I don't think so but it's an ethics issue and I think you'll find a lot of people are divided on this issue.

    Closer to home for me, people from West Virginia have been attacking the EPA for stopping mountaintop mining in their state. They say that the EPA is halting job creation and go on and on about how horrible the EPA is. It's so odd to me because this state is rife with environmental problems left over from just this mining and when there was no EPA and no regulations on the state level, chemical companies ran rampant in West Virginia. I wouldn't drink the groundwater there if my life depended on it now. And what was the reason for this? To give a few generations of jobs and stoke the smokestacks of the industrial USA? Sure ... but at what future and permanent and irreversible cost?

  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:07PM (#38905719)
    Exactly.

    To put things in perspective, China's GDP/Capita is about equal to what the United States had 120 years ago in 1890. If you compare the various metrics of 1890 United States with 2012 China, the people of China are doing very well for themselves.

    The people of China want a better life for themselves and they are willing to work to get it. This one company employs a million people and competes within the labor market to get them, which is why Foxconn is one of the best employers to work for in China. Nobody is holding a gun to the heads of these employees, its quite the contrary in spite of what Americas mainstream media wants to tell us.
  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:08PM (#38905745) Journal

    You'd think so but he's just a rabid Apple fanboy. His real name's Matt Deatheridge, a supposedly grown man who spends this much of his time defending a company he is a fan of, and relentlessly bashing one of their competitors, Google.

  • by husker_man (473297) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:13PM (#38905839)
    One summer when I was 15, I worked on a farm/ranch in western Nebraska. I worked twelve-hour days six days a week harvesting hay, helping out with dehorning/deballing of steers (not a fun task!), and general farm maintenance activities. Only day off was on Sundays. It was a hot, hard, smelly job. I personally enjoyed it (I treated it like an extended Boy Scout Summer Camp that I got paid for), but the bulk of the other teens out there complained and found it far too hard for them.

    If you compare the general conditions of the Foxconn factories to the working conditions in the rural countryside, I would be willing to bet that it's far better to be a Foxconn employee than a farm worker (or other such rural worker). And honestly, if you don't have a job in China (for all their vaunted "Socialist" (socialist in name only, IMHO)) it's better than starving. It probably does amount to slavery, unfortunately.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:22PM (#38905995)
    As numerous as Foxcon's flaws are, they pale in comparison to the more numerous non-name contractors. The non-names break many more labor laws, pollution and safety regulations, and stiff wages. They bribe or have connections with the petty bureaucrats. They've been known to pack up machines on off-day Sunday and disappear leaving workers unpaid and unemployed. Everyone knows this is going on and make movies and write books about it. I've seen several. The workers know this a crave the established contractors. A new farm boy will do a couple stints at a no name and they qualify for a Foxcon. It takes time for the legal system and societal expectations to take firm root.
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:23PM (#38906021)

    It's so odd to me because this state is rife with environmental problems left over from just this mining and when there was no EPA and no regulations on the state level, chemical companies ran rampant in West Virginia.

    The most interesting analogy for me are the communists in Russia: a lot of the people voting for the communists now have actually first-hand experience of what the old-school communists were like, and what life was like under them. To them, that life was better than what they have now. The only way that is possible is if they focus on only the good parts, and completely forget the bad parts. There's a lot of research going into why people are making these sorts of decisions. It's not entirely surprising that people behave this way. It still doesn't make right, optimal or even in their own self-interest.

  • Re:Foxconn suicides (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iggymanz (596061) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:23PM (#38906029)

    Apple's value is just "paper". I work at a VAR for primarily data center customers. So I think HP and IBM their highest profile customers, How is this any different for those highest profile companies?

  • Re:Foxconn suicides (Score:5, Interesting)

    by w_dragon (1802458) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:26PM (#38906063)
    China *assembles* electronics. Korea, Indonesia, and a few other Asian countries make them.
  • by cartman (18204) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:26PM (#38906067)

    I say this not to defend plantation slavery as anything objectively good, but to note the irony that someone who defends FoxConn's treatment of workers while holding views antagonistic toward actual plantation slavery is being very hypocritical because on balance, these workers have it even worse. I'm white and if I had to choose between being a field slave in the South vs working under the conditions the FoxConn workers do with the sort of future that awaits them, hands down I'd choose to be a slave. At least then the master's tyranny would end at sun down.

    You're very mistaken about the relative conditions of plantation slavery compared to developing countries' low-wage labor. Plantation slaves made no money whatsoever, and their imputed income from consumption was certainly less than 10% of the $400/mo which Foxconn workers earn. In addition, plantation slaves were frequently beaten severely for non-performance. Most of the slaves did not even survive the journey to the new world, because of harsh conditions on the slave ships. Those who did survive and had the misfortune to end up in the Carribean, usually lived about 5 additional years because of overwork.

    Your notion that plantation slave owners "cared more" about their slaves is absurdly incorrect. In many places of the carribbean, the ratio of freemen to slaves was something like 1:10, which posed the constant risk of violent slave rebellion, so violent suppression was necessary and continuous. The slave owners did not "care" about their slaves as they generally worked them to death within 5 years.

    As an aside, I've noticed that much criticism of the industrial revolution and of industrial development more generally, is based upon extraordinary over-estimation of the quality of life before the industrial development. There is a great deal of romanticizing (especially on the far left) of subsistence-farming life, of medieval conditions, of village agriculture, and (in this case) of plantation slavery, of all things. All of those modes of life imply an annual income of $300-$400 and severe back-breaking physical labor.

    On every step of the way to industrial development, conditions for workers are better than they were previously. The Chinese people lining up for these jobs are not stupid. They are aware that the alternative is village agriculture, and that village agriculture work is harder and far worse paid.

  • Re:Foxconn suicides (Score:4, Interesting)

    by beelsebob (529313) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:10PM (#38906821)

    Why do you think people vie to get these jobs? It's because working conditions there are already way better than the rest of the country.

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