Amazon's Alexa devices are being made by Chinese school children illegally working overtime

  • Hundreds of Chinese schoolchildren have been recruited to work long and often illegal hours in a factory that makes Amazon's Alexa devices, China Labor Watch has found.
  • The labor rights group's investigation showed that more than 1,000 children aged between 16 and 18 were employed as "interns" at a Foxconn factory in Hengyang.
  • While Chinese factories are allowed to employ students aged 16 or over, these students are not allowed to work nights or overtime.
  • Foxconn admitted that students had been employed illegally in a statement emailed to Business Insider and said that it is taking immediate action to rectify the situation.
  • Amazon said it is "urgently investigating" the allegations and addressing them with Foxconn at the most senior level..

Hundreds of Chinese schoolchildren have been recruited to work long and often illegal hours in a factory that makes Amazon's Alexa devices, according to China Labor Watch.

The labor rights group's investigation, which was first reported by The Guardian, unearthed evidence showing that more than 1,000 children aged between 16 and 18 were employed as "interns" at a Foxconn factory in Hengyang, in central China.

While Chinese factories are allowed to employ students aged 16 or over, these students are not allowed to work nights or overtime, according to China Labor Watch.

The documents also showed that schools were paid to send students to the factories and teachers were asked to encourage them to work overtime, despite some students not wanting to.

"Nightshift line leaders should check in with student interns and teachers more often, and report back any abnormal situation so that teachers can persuade students to work night shifts and overtime," according to notes from a recent HR meeting at the factory, reviewed by China Labor Watch.

If children refused to work the additional hours, teachers were told to file a resignation letter on their behalf, the meeting notes indicated.

Xiao Fang, a 17-year-old studying computing, started work on the Amazon Echo production line last month and was given the job of applying a protective film to about 3,000 Echo Dots each day.

She told researchers that her teacher initially said she would be working eight hours a day, five days a week but this had since changed to 10 hours a day (including two hours' overtime) for six days a week.

"In the beginning, I wasn't very used to working at the factory, and now, after working for a month, I have reluctantly adapted to the work. But working 10 hours a day, every day, is very tiring," she said in an interview with China Labor Watch researchers.

Xiao said that her teacher pushed her into working the longer hours by saying if she didn't, it would impact her graduation and chances of getting a scholarship after.

"I tried telling the manager of my line that I didn't want to work overtime," she said. "But the manager notified my teacher and the teacher said if I didn't work overtime, I could not intern at Foxconn and that would affect my graduation and scholarship applications at the school."

"I had no choice, I could only endure this," she added.

Amazon sends a team to investigate labor conditions

In a statement emailed to Business Insider, Foxconn admitted that students had been employed illegally and that it is taking immediate action to rectify the situation. It maintained that its internship program is set up to give students practical work experience, however. The firm said:

"We have doubled the oversight and monitoring of the internship program with each relevant partner school to ensure that, under no circumstances, will interns are allowed to work overtime or nights.

"There have been instances in the past where lax oversight on the part of the local management team has allowed this to happen and, while the impacted interns were paid the additional wages associated with these shifts, this is not acceptable and we have taken immediate steps to ensure it will not be repeated."

Amazon said in a statement emailed to Business Insider that it "does not tolerate violations of its Supplier Code of Conduct," and is "urgently investigating these allegations and addressing this with Foxconn at the most senior level." It also said that it sent a team of specialists out to the factory on Thursday to investigate.

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