Steve Jobs: Apple Is 'All Over' Foxconn Suicides
Apple iPhones and iPads are among the high-tech gadgets assembled at the giant Foxconn factory in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, which has seen at least 13 workers try to commit suicide this year, with 10 succeeding.
Foxconn, part of Taiwan-based Hon Hai, the largest electronics manufacturer in the world, has pledged to increase counseling and ramp up other safety measures, including safety nets around its tall dormitories.
"Not A Sweatshop"
"We look at everything at these companies," Jobs said at the AllThingsD's D8 conference, according to Engadget. "Foxconn is not a sweatshop."
Apple tends to get singled out about the Foxconn issue because it is the most famous of several huge high-tech companies whose products are manufactured at the industrial facility in Shenzhen. Other companies include Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Sony (SNE), Nokia (NOK) and Nintendo (NTDOY).
But of all the high-tech companies that use Foxconn, Apple stands out for praise: It has the most robust supplier audit program of any peer its size. In February, the company disclosed that child labor had been used in three cases to build its products, and pledged to redouble its monitoring efforts.
Greater Attention to Labor Standards
In fact, the tech industry, and Apple in particular, has been very focused on working conditions at Chinese suppliers in recent years, says Jack Perkowski, author of Managing The Dragon, and a veteran Western businessman in China.
"Given all of the press and the activities of human rights groups over the years, high-profile companies like Apple, Dell and others pay great attention to working conditions at their suppliers in China," Perkoswski says. "Audits, which take into account a range of issues such as safety in addition to quality controls, are conducted frequently. If working conditions were that bad, they would be telling management and ultimately distance themselves from the factory if corrections action weren't taken."
It's no secret why Foxconn is such an attractive place for these wealthy Western firms to assemble their gadgets. When you pay your workers $300 per month -- many workers make less, but that's a useful benchmark -- let's just say that you have a comparative advantage in labor costs relative to other markets.
Foxconn employs some 300,000 workers at the giant plant. Laborers work, eat, sleep, shop and recreate within the walled-in facility.
At roughly $3,600, the annual salary of a typical Foxconn line worker exceeds the annual Chinese GDP per capita of $3,266, according to World Bank data from 2008. Foxconn said this week that some of its lowest paid workers would soon see a 30% increase.