There Are Still Underage Workers at Foxconn

Rebecca Greenfield
October 16, 2012
There Are Still Underage Workers at Foxconn

After defending its forced internship program, Foxconn admits that "a small number" of those workers were underage, as young as 14 years old, reports Bloomberg News's Tim Culpan. These aren't widespread issues, claims Foxconn, claiming the teenagers only worked at the plant for three weeks, and that there's a strict policy against workers who don't meet age requirements. "Any Foxconn employee found, through our investigation, to be responsible for these violations will have their employment immediately terminated," Foxconn said in the e-mail to Culpan. "We recognize that full responsibility for these violations rests with our company and we have apologized to each of the students for our role in this action." 

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These young workers were one of the shocking things Mike Daisey may or may not have seen when he visited the Apple manufacturer. Marketplace's Rob Schmitz confirmed that "underage workers are sometimes caught working at Apple suppliers," in an interview with This American Life host Ira Glass. A 2010 audit found 10 Apple facilities with 91 underage workers, he said. So it's not surprising that Foxconn has now found an undisclosed handful in the Yantai plant. Though, as Schmitz noted "they're rare." This is just a "small number" out of hundreds and thousands of workers. 

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Even so, this doesn't help Foxconn's reputation. The company has continued to struggle with worker's rights issues. Last month tensions between laborers and staff escalated into a riot and led to a plant closure. A few weeks later, China Labor Watch claimed that thousands of workers had gone on strike because of iPhone production—though Foxconn has denied that.