Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, has time and time again showed the world the human cost of cheap gadgets. Suicides, riots and frequent accounts of worker abuse at the Taiwanese company’s massive factories, spread across China, often make international headlines – but no amount of bad PR seems to stop the world’s insatiable appetite for smartphones, tablets, TVs and other popular consumer electronics.
New reports from China claim that students from Xi’an Technical University were forced into a two-month internship at a Foxconn plant in Yantai – 1,300 kilometers from their school – and threatened by administrators that their diplomas would be withheld if they declined to participate.
“If they attempted to drop out of the program early, they would lose six credits' worth of courses.” said Polygon. “The students also said they were given tasks outside of their areas of study, and sometimes performed manual labor.”
The group of 45 student interns was forced to work 11 hours per day, given only 10 minutes rest in the morning and 10 minutes rest in the afternoon. They were tasked with menial assembly jobs for Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 4 console.
“One student said he had to put stickers on Sony PlayStation game consoles, while another said he had to pack PlayStation user manuals and cables into boxes,” reported The South China Morning Post. The students added that “their jobs did not serve any educational purpose.”
The students were paid 1,600 yuan ($261) per month while working at the factory. The New York Times reported that minimum wage in Yantai can be as low as 1,100 yuan ($180) a month. However, overtime and night shifts for interns are a violation of Foxconn company policy.
Sony claims that Foxconn, perhaps most famous for making Apple’s iconic iPhone, complies with the company’s Supplier Code of Conduct. Foxconn has also initiated an internal investigation, stating that “immediate actions have been taken to bring [the Yantai] campus into full compliance with our code and policies.”
Many Chinese factories are turning to interns as a way to meet the high demand for cheap products – a demand that is increasingly outpacing the supply of workers who are willing to work in them.
“The young generation don’t want to work in factories, they want to work in services or the internet or another more easy and relaxed job,” Foxconn founder Terry Gou told The Financial Times. At present, his company employs more than 1 million workers, making it the largest private employer in China.