Foxconn Employee Describes His Oppressed Life from Inside the Factories

Illustration for article titled Foxconn Employee Describes His Oppressed Life from Inside the Factories

Even if you don't know Foxconn's name, you know the products they produce. Major, beloved hardware brands like Apple and Nintendo rely on their assembly lines to make some of the most coveted gadgets in the world.


More recently, Sun Danyong's alleged iPhone suicide has outed the company's brutal practices.

Now, one employee appears to have written an account of what it's like to be recruited and work for Foxconn (in perpetual overtime, for a grand total of about $220 a month) that was published on China Labor Watch. Needless to say, the experience more closely echoes an internment camp than a dull production line:

I was placed in a dormitory that has ten three-level bunk beds, thus accommodating 30 people. While many people refused to stay there at that time, the management said that it is much better than the other dormitories on site that are shared by hundreds of workers...The training begins immediately on the second day upon our arrival. At first I thought we would be informed of some professional operative skills and knowledge, but instead, we were taught the factory's regulations, culture, and acknowledgment of Foxconn's business concept. By now, I think it is safe to say that the training is a part of Foxconn's brain washing process. A supervisor told us that working at Foxconn requires total obedience; you do not need to be intelligent or highly skilled. After a week of training, we concluded that at Foxconn, we shouldn't treat ourselves as human beings, we are just machines. During the week, we also had a health examination, a very simple blood test, a blood pressure test and a vision test. We did not receive any results afterwards.

To read more on a business culture that will go so far as to fine its employees for uneaten rice in the cafeteria, hit the link. [China Labor Watch via Silicon Alley Insider]


Kai Chen

I too visited many factories in China, and have followed the rise of the Chinese economy, both academically and casually, over the last 20 years. My dad was an expat there in the early 90's, before all the shine and glitz, and I lived in Shanghai when there were 9 kids in the American school and Pudong was just farmland. Its amazing to see how far China has come in the last 20 years, and its not just in the large cities, but even in the countryside. One of my mom's sisters was left behind on the mainland during the '49 war, and when we got her out of the country in '92, her and her family only ate rice and chili peppers. No meat, no veggies, nothing. That was how life was. Now, most Chinese people get to eat meat at least once a week, if not on a daily basis in the cities. Oppressed life in a factory, sad to say, is a step up for most people in that country, especially for factory workers, even for recent college graduates.

Yes, there is room for improvement. If the allegations of torture are true, then yes, Foxconn should be punished. That said, there HAVE been improvements. A labor law implemented in 2008 have improved labor rights and given greater protection to workers. The thing is, it will take time for these improvements to start bearing fruit, because its not just the law that needs to change, but large scale social perceptions and mindsets, and these changes take generations to change. Its hard to see the improvements at the margins, but if you look at what was happening in China 20 years ago and compare it to how conditions are today, you'll get a much better appreciation of the progress that has been made, and where progress will be 20 years from now.

BTW, I've been to that Foxconn factory before (above picture.) My company was providing SCM services to Foxconn. That's their lunch room. All employees, from the janitors and line workers all the way up to top management eat there. the company provides free lunches as a benefit to the workers. One decent meat, two veggies, rice, soup, a drink and yogurt- something completely unimaginable just 20 years ago. Also, one last thing to note, many of these OEM/ODM companies, make razor thin margins, something like 1-2%. Some even take losses. Its a highly competitive, cut-throat industry that we can't even conceive of here in the US. Power, as it is, is currently in the hands of the Apples and Microsofts of the world. They control the value in the chain. However, Foxconn and others, are slowly moving up that chain, expanding markets and margins. As they do, you can expect conditions to improve. But right now, its miserable for everyone in that company.