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Businesses China Hardware Technology

In Xhengzhou, Thousands Vie For Foxconn Jobs 386

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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  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:48PM (#38905371) Homepage

    "Less than satisfactory" according to white, paternalistic Americans who frequent Whole Foods.

    Sorry to stereotype here, but let the Chinese figure out what is satisfactory or not.

  • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:48PM (#38905375)

    Because Apple is their highest profile customer. They're raking in massive profits while utilizing a company that leverages the low pay of Chinese laborers and the lack of real labor laws, which has had some high profile incidents.

    Thousands line up to work there because there are billions of people in the country who are increasingly being displaced and are poor, and need anything as a source of income. Doesn't mean it's a good job, just that it's a job.

  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:53PM (#38905443)

    This used to be common in America too. Young people would line up around the block to work in slaughterhouses, textile mills, etc. They, being young, thought themselves invincible. They thought they could handle whatever was thrown at them, and work their way out of poverty. They were wrong.

    They'd be used up, and thrown away like chaff, and a new batch of starry-eyed youngsters would be brought in.

    As long as workers are disorganized, businesses will play them against each other, and the workers will suffer for it.

  • by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:57PM (#38905507)

    Cultural relativism has many positive uses, but using it to give a pass to international labor exploitation isn't one of them.

    There are some folks would like nothing more than to get us desperate enough to be exploited in a similar way right here at home.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:58PM (#38905559)

    The increasingly number of stories on the poor working conditions in China are frustrating, because they are so dense. It would be much more honest to compare Foxconn to other Chinese factories, rather than to the practically-no-longer-existing factories in the Western world. It would make for a less exciting story - and probably also a less dualistic one: I'm afraid if the discourse is not framed in terms of bad villains (Foxconn and Apple) leagued to exploit the poor good guys (the defenseless Chinese peasants), it is less easy to stimulate discussion. But this is all stuff that cleverer people have said before me, why do we keep rehashing it?

  • by Moheeheeko ( 1682914 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:00PM (#38905571)
    I think it boils down to a couple facts, the first being that apple manufactured their products in the USA for years and still made good money, but now that they are in China they charge the same prices for the goods, but pay a fraction to have them made, litterally making billions (1 billion a week in the last quarter IIRC). On top of that I personally think that people are realising the irony that Apple products are generally associated with the kind of people who boycot things like this.
  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:01PM (#38905607)

    When people are starving to death, living in areas so polluted by heavy metals that the chinese govt denies the who access to take soil samples, and where there is such a sickeningly huge divide between wealthy and poor, it should come as no surprise that people will rush from dieing of hunger and poisoning to dieing of overwork and poisoning.

    The implied "look, thousands line up for these slave labor positons, so they can't be as bad as everyone says! So, its OK to buy chinese made things!" Is so morally destitute and wrong it defies reason.

    Newsflash fuckers. Just because people are lining up to try to crawl their way out of the chinese agricultural infrastructure where they live in straw huts and lack basic sanitation, doesn't make the hellholes they are scambling to get to any less hellish.

  • by uniquename72 ( 1169497 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:08PM (#38905747)
    People who want to create a better life for their families within the context of an oppressive regime queue for choice spaces that could potentially help them, and put a little more food on their table.

    I wish them luck.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:08PM (#38905753)

    When is the last time anyone heard that phrase in the U.S.?

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:11PM (#38905805)

    They charge "Made in the US" prices but use Chinese labour. No surprise that draws some attention. Also they seem to want to deflect attention from it. On their boxes they say really prominently "Designed by Apple in California". On the device where there's the required "made in" sticker they prefix it with "Designed by Apple in California".

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@NOsPam.hackish.org> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:17PM (#38905899)

    Apple also has an image/style and a customer demographic that cares about that image. Lots of PC manufacturers have an image vaguely like Wal-Mart: boring, boxy, of mediocre quality. Those kinds of companies are much less hurt by allegations like this than Apple, because it's already widely suspected that they're selling what amounts to a rebadged whitebox product that emerged from some Chinese factory in some complex, undisclosed manner. Apple, meanwhile, is supposed to be premium and hip!

    Sort of how Starbucks has felt a lot more pressured over fair-trade type stuff than, say, McDonalds has, even though McDonalds sells about as much coffee.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@NOsPam.hackish.org> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:22PM (#38906009)

    I'd say it's closer to 1880s-1890s American "company towns", like mining encampments where the mining company owned all the housing and the local store. I agree it's not good, but there are not-good historical parallels that don't require hyperbole.

  • by arose ( 644256 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:28PM (#38906105)
    I bet you had the "luxury" of talking to your fellow coworkers and maybe, maybe even some protective gear. You certainly weren't guaranteed to fuck up your hands by doing the same exact thing over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over. Though I do conceede that your bed might have resembled a coffin as well...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:29PM (#38906119)

    No, the choice they get is either remain on the farm and sling poop into a rice paddy for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, or go work in a factory where the work is less arduous and much better paid.

    I'd take the factory too.

  • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:29PM (#38906131)

    My god, I am sick of this crap. Education lifts the masses, but the idea that you are above something because you have been educated is a real crock. I'd argue my grandfather (a butcher) had better control of the English language than I do, despite me attending 9 more years of school than he did.

    By lifting the masses, you create a society that has values beyond simply survival. Presumably, beyond economic terms, this is useful. The injustice is in educating/lifting only an elite class.

  • by thisnamestoolong ( 1584383 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:30PM (#38906147)
    This. I am so sick and tired of supposedly progressive people using tolerance to excuse horrific behaviors of other people around the globe. Yes, we do need to be tolerant of the cultures of others. If another culture wants to eat dogs, so what? We eat cows and pigs. Unfortunately, many people on the left, most of whom are otherwise quite intelligent and have very finely tuned moral compasses, take this argument WAY too far. Muslims want to force their women to dress in cloth bags? Heeey, who are we to say that we're better than they are? Tribes in Africa removing the clitorises of their little girls? Well, you know, they just do things a little bit differently... It is bullshit. We can (and need to) respect the rights of other cultures to do things in their own way, but that doesn't mean that there is no valid concept of universal morality. It is ALWAYS wrong to treat one gender/class/race as less than human. I don't care how many generations of your ancestors did it that way, or what your holy book says. This does not fall afoul of our need to respect cultural differences, it is simply a fulfillment of our obligation to our fellow human beings.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:31PM (#38906161)

    Most people where happy about the "leveling of the playing field" aspects of recent improvements in communication, technology, and travel. I can remember people talking in the late-90's about how the internet was going to make the world a better place, now that all the smaller countries could participate on the same terms as the first-world big guys. But all I could feel at the time was sad (selfishly so, admittedly). Because, unlike most of the cheerleaders, it occured to me that a level playing field was great news for poor countries--but really BAD news for the rich countries. If you're making $1 a day, the chance to make 75 cents an hour is a godsend. If you're making $15+/hr. though, this means you're about to be out of work.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:31PM (#38906163) Journal

    I fail to see how living in poverty implies that sub-human work conditions, which are so appalling that they even force workers to suicide in droves, becomes somehow acceptable and even desireable.

    That the working conditions Foxconn is providing are desirable is a simple empirical fact. They are certainly perceived as better than the conditions the applicants are coming from. That doesn't mean they're good by any western standard, it just demonstrates that humans live in extremely poor conditions.

    It's people like you who, during the industrial revolution, made it socially acceptable to have small children work themselves to death in a multitude of industrial jobs, including coal mining.

    It was, of course, better to have them work themselves to death in the fields.

    And I bet you actually believe your defense of sub-human working conditions actually helps people and makes you a better person.

    It's not clear that it's possible for a society to get from the bottom -- the bulk of the population engaged in hardscrabble subsistence farming -- to a Western standard without going through what you term "sub-human" working conditions along the way.

  • Why Not America. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by andersh ( 229403 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:51PM (#38906523)

    To quote "Business Insider" magazine:

    Apple doesn't build iPhones in the United States, in other words, because there is no longer an ecosystem here to support that manufacturing. There's no supply chain, there aren't enough super-low-cost workers, and there are not enough mid-level engineers.

    The real reasons Apple makes iPhones in China, therefore, are as follows:

    - Most of the components of iPhones and iPads--the supply chain--are now manufactured in China, so assembling the phones half-a-world away would create huge logistical challenges. It would also reduce flexibility--the ability to switch easily from one component supplier or manufacturer to another.

    - China's factories are now far bigger and more nimble than those in the United States. They can hire (and fire) tens of thousands of workers practically overnight. Because so many of the workers live on-site, they can also press them into service at a moment's notice. And they can change production practices and speeds extremely rapidly.

    - China now has a far bigger supply of appropriately-qualified engineers than the U.S. does--folks with the technical skills necessary to build complex gadgets but not so credentialed that they cost too much.
    And, lastly, China's workforce is much hungrier and more frugal than many of their counterparts in the United States.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:53PM (#38906555)

    "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...

    Is it just because Apple is so big that Foxconn takes these extreme measures?"

    It's probably because of weak labor laws in China.

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

    Nor would he want there to be, if he'd be one of those workers, and then understands that human beings are not merely components of a production line. F'n sociopath executives.

  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:01PM (#38906669)

    When there is negative correlation between working at Foxconn and suicide rates it is safe to assume that working there actually makes Chinese people less suicidal. Sometimes people kill themselves for other reasons than their job.

  • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:13PM (#38906869) Homepage

    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?

    The essential problem is that people mostly think in the short term. We have the ability to make long term plans, but even the most disciplined of us have a very hard time ignoring short term goals in favor of long term planning. All of us can do it, and some of us are better at it than others, but the temptation to take care of short term problem at the expense of long term success is always there.

    The is especially true when you're talking about people who are literally in a subsistence barely surviving mode. It's easy for me to look at the environmental impact of mountaintop mining and say to a miner, "What are you doing? You're destroying the land, poisoning yourself, poisoning your kids. How can you do this?" To him though, he's *feeding* his kids. The chance that his kids might get sick at sometime in the distant future is not nearly as scary to him as the certainty that they won't get enough to eat right now if he doesn't work.

    The other problem is one of trust. For a lot of cultural and educational reasons, people in these rural towns trust the local company owners or managers more than the faceless government regulators. If the company says what they're doing is safe (and it's feeding my kids), who is this outside regulator to come in and say otherwise? They typically have seen Erin Brockovich, they don't read environmental studies. One of the first problems with getting anything done about some these environmental disasters is always getting people to believe that the company would *do* something like that.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:16PM (#38906925) Journal

    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.

    What bullshit. A very small percentage of people outside of the Foxconn factory actually know how bad those working conditions are. The suicides are just a small part of the scandal. There are deaths due to overwork. Not long ago, there was one worker who died after a 36 hour shift.

    And the workers live at the factory, in dormitories, 16 beds to a 12'x12' room. The beds are stacked high like cordwood, with areas between the stacks of beds so narrow that a regular-sized Westerner couldn't fit through them. The dormitory rooms where these workers are warehoused have covered by the same surveillance cameras that are used on the factory floor to monitor the workers, making sure they don't take a minute to rest. There are workers as young as 13 in these factories who get no schooling beyond whatever training they need to perform their function. Even though most of the jobs at Foxconn could be done by automated assembly, it's actually cheaper to pay the little bit they pay to workers than it is to buy and maintain the machines. Workers who go to work at Foxconn from areas outside of Shenzhen don't expect to ever see their families again unless they also come to work at Foxconn.

    I'm as guilty as any of eagerly buying products that contain hardware made in these factories. Unfortunately, if you want to use technology, there is no choice. But you know who does have a choice? Apple. Dell. Sony, etc.

    And it's not exactly like Apple is even passing along the savings they get in having such inhuman working conditions. That saving is passed along to their very happy shareholders.

    I'm not an Apple shareholder anymore, but I was. Apple stock paid for my daughter's undergraduate education and plumped up my family's nest egg quite nicely. But the more I learned about what's going on in the factories where the Apple products are made, the less I felt I could profit from their business model. I no longer respect Apple, no matter how shiny and slick their products. They are a shit corporation in my eyes now. Apple is one of the biggest, most successful companies in the world, and that position gives them the power to actually change some of the catastrophic conditions at the factories where their products are made, but they don't do that, because it might mean their shareholders would have to accept a percent or two less in profits, which would still leave them quite happy, but for some people, there is no bottom to their greed. There is no "enough".

    Maybe someday I'll decide I can no longer enjoy products that come from factories where human beings are treated this way, and given no choice except to go back home and starve and have their families starve, but I'm not there yet, because I don't really have much choice. It doesn't make me feel much better to realize I have little choice when I think of the lack of choices that the workers at Foxconn have. And the only way I'll ever get that choice is if some company actually steps up and decides not to participate in human trafficking and starts making their products in a way that does not have such a high human cost. And yes, I will gladly pay more for such products. Hell yes, I will pay more for such products.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:17PM (#38906947) Journal

    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.

    Unless life in totalitarian capitalist Russia is worse than life in totalitarian communist Russia. Russia was clearly more democratic under Gorbechev than under Putin, for what it's worth.

  • by marnues ( 906739 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:24PM (#38907063)
    Yes, you implied that work is scarce in China. Which it is not. Good jobs are scarce. And in China, a Foxconn factory position _is a good job_.
  • by dbet ( 1607261 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:28PM (#38907137)
    No, it's "okay" because the Chinese people are better with Foxconn than without it, and they're better off if you buy from Foxconn than if you don't.

    You don't help the developing world by not buying from them. Your purchases help make sure that tomorrow is a tiny bit better. Don't think for a minute than the U.S wasn't a mirror image of this 120 years ago. We got HERE because we went through this phase. If you try to stop China from going through the same phase, you're taking away their better tomorrow, just to make yourself feel better. And that makes you a dick.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:38PM (#38907313)

    You seem to be confused about taking away their future and wanting to stifle their growth as opposed to what most of us want, which is to stop seeing jobs that were here just 10-15 years ago showing up en masse elsewhere. I don't think the American people are so upset that China got 10,000 jobs from Apple as they are that we DID NOT get 10,000 jobs from Apple. This scenario would be held as true if the country in question was not China.

    We'd also probably be less inclined to care if unemployment was not such a driving issue in all current political discussions and the income disparity wasn't growing while China's shrinks.

  • by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:19PM (#38907921)
    The comparison to slavery seems overblown to me. Slaves can't quit and take another job. For Chinese blue collar types, Foxconn is a nice place to work compared to the alternatives. When that stops being the case it will be difficult to attract people, just like any country in the west.
  • by F69631 ( 2421974 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:23PM (#38907991)

    No, it's "okay" because the Chinese people are better with Foxconn than without it, and they're better off if you buy from Foxconn than if you don't.

    That is the standard argument that people use to rationalize buying stuff made with slave or child labor or by workers in similarly horrific working conditions. Frankly, it doesn't hold water.

    You're creating a straw man when you say "If they didn't work for Foxconn, they would have no jobs at all". The alternatives aren't "Work long days for 29 cents an hour" and "Don't have a job at all". There is also the option of "Work a bit shorter days for 50 cents an hour". We as consumers can demand companies to demand their subcontractors to offer workers somewhat tolerable working conditions.

    At this point right wing idealists tend to say "If wages go up, prices go up, less products are sold, less workers are hired, growth is stiffled and people end up worse off". It's hard to claim that this would apply here: How many manhours per smartphone are spent in Foxconn factories? If the cost of workforce would go up by 15 cents per manhour, the price increase of endproduct wouldn't significantly alter the demand.

    So no, we don't suddenly become dicks if we tell companies "We are willing to accept 2 dollars of price increase in our smartphones but we won't buy your products unless you tell Foxconn - or any other subcontractor you choose - to provide reasonable working conditions".

  • by dadioflex ( 854298 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:41PM (#38908243)
    But not upset enough to stop buying Apple products.
  • by Rakarra ( 112805 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:45PM (#38908291)

    Those are still deplorable conditions. How very very convenient it is for these successful companies to be able "lift up the workers" in countries like China using factories with working conditions that would get the managers real jail time if they tried implementing them in a Western First-World country. So convenient that they can pay them pennies and force them into obscene hours and factory housing because anything is better than nothing, right?

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.