Foxconn breaches child-labour laws with underage hires

Foxconn has admitted to hiring interns that are under China's legal working age.

Foxconn assembly line workers wear these polo shirts at work.
(Credit: Jay Greene/CNET)

The company has issued a statement saying that it performed an internal investigation at its Yantai facility in the Shandong Province, and found that some of the interns working there ranged in age from 14 to 16 years old. China's legal working age is 16.

"This is not only a violation of China's labour law, it is also a violation of Foxconn policy, and immediate steps have been taken to return the interns in question to their educational institutions," the company said in an emailed statement to CNET. "We are also carrying out a full investigation, in cooperation with the respective educational institutions, to determine how this happened and the actions that must be taken by our company to ensure that it can never happen again."

Foxconn's admission came just hours after China Labor Watch, an organisation that has monitored production efforts in the country, issued a statement saying that it was able to confirm that the Yantai facility did have interns as young as 14 years of age working there over the summer.

"These underage interns were mainly sent to Foxconn by schools, but Foxconn did not check the IDs of these young interns," China Labour Watch said in a statement. "The schools involved in this incident should take primary responsibility, but Foxconn is also culpable for not confirming the ages of their workers."

Foxconn was quick to shoulder the blame, saying in its statement to CNET that "full responsibility for these violations rests with our company, and we have apologised to each of the students for our role in this action." Foxconn also said that it will "immediately" terminate any employee found to have been responsible for the violations.

The Yantai issue comes just a month after another Foxconn facility in the Jiangsu province in China was hit with charges that the company improperly put interns to work on the production line to make iPhone accessories, including USB cables. Foxconn quickly denied that claim, saying that the Fair Labor Association's audit "found no evidence that any interns were pressured to participate".

Earlier reports out of China had claimed that the interns were told that they had to produce the accessories in order to receive academic credits. They reportedly made about US$244 per month, and were forced to work overtime if they didn't complete their projects.

Foxconn didn't spend time focusing on those reports in today's statement, but the company, which produces Apple's iPhone and iPad, along with devices from other tech companies, said that the typical internship lasts three and a half months. Interns make up approximately 2.7 per cent of its 1.2 million employees in China.

"In addition to allowing the students to gain relevant industry experience while earning the same industry-competitive compensation as our full-time entry-level workers, this program gives Foxconn an opportunity to identify participants who have the potential to be excellent full-time employees, should they wish to join our company upon graduation from their vocational school," the company said today.

Apple earlier this year requested that the Fair Labor Association (FLA) launch an investigation into the manufacturer's business practices. That investigation yielded a host of violations, including excessive overtime and improper pay.

Foxconn said at the time that it would amend its policies to address the FLA's concerns. In August, Foxconn was found to have addressed the majority of the complaints, but has several more that it needs to rectify by the middle of next year.


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