It shouldn't be surprising that this sort of accusation is being hurled at Apple's BFF (in terms of manufacturing), but it might surprise you to see it about a non-iDevice. In a scathing report by Quartz issued on Thursday, Foxconn as well as a Chinese university were accused of forcing students into internships they didn't want.
Essentially, if the Engineering students from Xi’an Institute of Technology (XIT) did not agree to the internships, working on the assembly of Sony's PlayStation 4, they wouldn’t receive six course credits, effectively making it virtually impossible for them to graduate. If it sounds like slave labor, you might not be far off.
However, the interns do get paid and are treated as regular employees, although they receive only entry-level wages. All is not kosher, though, as Foxconn said that an internal investigation showed that the XIT students at its Yantai factory complex were assigned to night shifts and overtime, which violates the company’s policies.
In a statement, Foxconn said:
Immediate actions have been taken to bring that campus into full compliance with our code and policies, [including] reinforcing the policies of no overtime and no night shifts for student interns, even though such work is voluntary, and reminding all interns of their rights to terminate their participation in the program at any time.
In the past, work at Foxconn has been said to be tedious, hazardous, and backbreaking.
Finding youthful labor has become a problem for the company, though, as founder Terry Gou admitted to the Financial Times earlier this month.
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. Many workers are moving to the services sector and, in the manufacturing sector, total demand [for workers] is now more than supply.
In the same manner as now, Foxconn said that the interns were free to leave at any time.
Many Americans were first exposed to the harsh realities of Chinese factory work back in early 2012, via a New York Times expose. However, an Apple executive feared little backlash. The anonymous source said:
You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards. And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China.