May 21, 2010

Apple's iPad manufacturer runs a "Hell Factory"


In a follow-up to reports of stress-related worker suicides at the Chinese factories that produce Apple‘s iPad (previously covered here on MobyLives), Gizmodo offers some new reporting from the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly. The paper, which has been described by the New York Times as China’s most influential liberal newspaper, sent 20-year-old reporter Liu Zhi Yi undercover to a factory in Shenzhen, China, run by Apple contractor Foxconn. According to Gizmodo:

There’s no doubt about it. The Foxconn suicides were caused by job stress. Within half a year, there have been nine suicides attempts with seven confirmed deaths at Foxconn’s Shenzhen factory. In the last month, that number suddenly increased to 30 new suicide attempts, prompting the company to hire counselors and even Buddhist monks to free the souls of the suicidal from purgatory.

Foxconn is one of Apple’s main manufacturer contractors. Thousands of Mac minis, iPods, iPhones and iPads are assembled daily in the Shenzhen factory, which runs 24/7. The company also produces some products for Intel, Dell, and HP, among others.

During his 28 days of investigation, Liu Zhi Yi was shocked to discover how the factory workers live in a sort of indentured servitude. They work all day long, stopping only to quickly eat or to sleep. They repeat the same routine again and again except on public holidays. Liu surmised that for many workers, the only escape from this cycle was to end their life.

Kelly Burdick is the former executive editor of Melville House.