Chinese College Students Forced into Foxconn Internships

A worker examines a circuit board inside a Foxconn factory in the township of Longhua in the southern Guangdong province May 26, 2010. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Foxconn, the electronics manufacturing firm that supplies products to Apple Inc. and other companies, is facing yet another controversy over its labor practices. The Taiwan-based company admitted to violating its own policies by employing student interns for overtime and night shifts at its factories.

Students from a university in Yantai, located in the northern coastal province of Shandong, have come forward to Chinese media claiming that more than a thousand of their classmates have been working illegal overtime hours at a nearby Foxconn factory, on the production and packaging of the soon-to-be debuted Sony PlayStation 4. Sony has confirmed that Foxconn is manufacturing the PlayStation 4, but did not confirm if they were made at the Yantai location.

“There have been a few instances where our polices pertaining to overtime and night-shift work were not enforced,” Foxconn said in a statement. “Immediate actions have now been taken to bring that campus into full compliance with our code and policies.”

The students were forced to work at the factory in order to fulfill their credit requirements to graduate. According to a report by Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily newspaper, a class of engineering students at the Xi’an Institute of Technology was told that participation in the internship at Foxconn was “necessary” if they wanted to receive six credits that would make them eligible to graduate on time. Foxconn said that the company has internship programs set up in various locations in China, but insisted that the experience is intended to give students an “opportunity to gain practical work experience and on-the-job training that will support their efforts to find employment following their graduation.” According to Quartz, the “internships” included performing such tasks as gluing parts together, applying stickers and boxing up accessories, earning students the same wage as entry-level employees.

Foxconn has a long history with labor troubles. Just last year, the same factory from the Yantai complaint admitted to temporarily hiring underage interns, some of whom were as young as 14.

In 2010, Foxconn faced an investigation after a string of factory-worker suicides drew attention from labor rights activists and the media.

The latest allegations came just days after Foxconn CEO Terry Gou made a statement about the lack of young people interested in factory jobs. Talking to a delegation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in Bali, Indonesia, Gou lamented that China’s young workers are no longer lining up to work on an assembly line and are instead more interested in the technology and service sectors. 

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