Fake Ipods have started appearing on London walls after a recent spate of suicides at a Guangdong factory. Each piece by Xlyo depicts the conditions faced by the Chinese workers who produce electronic goods for a range of manufacturers, including Apple.
Taiwanese-owned Foxconn is the world’s biggest electronics outsourcing manufacturer, operating 20 plants and employing more than 800,000 workers in China. The Shenzhen plant in Guangdong province houses 400,000 workers, making products from iPhones and iPads to PlayStations for international brands like Apple, Sony, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Analysts estimate that about 70 percent of Apple’s products are manufactured there.
Foxconn’s military-style regime, which is typical of export factories in China, requires workers to live in dormitories with up to 10 people a room. A single dormitory houses 5,000 workers, and there are many dozens of them. Workers are only allowed to enter their own rooms with electronic badges and are not allowed to cook, or have visitors or sexual relations. The dorms have no air conditioning in order to pressure workers to do extra overtime during the summer, as there is air conditioning on the factory floor.
Like other exporting companies, Foxconn’s basic monthly wage of 950 yuan ($US140) is in line with Shenzhen’s official minimum wage. Employees must work hours of overtime each day to make about 2,000 yuan to meet basic needs.
Thirteen suicide attempts since January, half of them during May, inside Foxconn’s huge plant at Shenzhen, a major manufacturing hub in southern China, underscore the brutal exploitation of Chinese workers by the world’s largest corporations. Ten workers have died, most of them just 18 to 24 years old. In the latest tragedy, a young man slashed his wrists in one of the factory’s dormitory last week.
… most of the 13 workers who tried to kill themselves jumped from buildings because they were unable to bear the stress, alienation and humiliation they experience daily.
While Foxconn’s plant in Shenzhen is like a mini-city, there are many such huge factories in China. Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Co at Dongguang, another manufacturing hub in Guangdong, for instance, employs 50,000 to 60,000 workers in a single plant. About 80 percent are just 18 to 22 years old, also working 10 to 12 hours a day. The company is the world’s largest sport shoes manufacturer, producing for brands like Nike and Reebok, with most of its 280,000 workers in China.