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Foxconn's Other Dirty Secret: the World's Largest "Internship" Program 183

Posted by samzenpus
from the apprentice-slave dept.
pigrabbitbear writes "In light of a series of reports that have emerged over the years, one of many dark stories of suicide now points at one of the lesser-known but more unsavory aspects of Foxconn's much-criticized labor practices: with the help of schools and government officials, the company runs a massive internship program built not on voluntary education but on 'compelled' factory work for teenage students. According to Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation."
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Foxconn's Other Dirty Secret: the World's Largest "Internship" Program

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:29PM (#39048423)

    I'm looking forward to working my way up. Some of the old timers have made it all the way up to the roof they said.

  • by stanlyb (1839382) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:32PM (#39048465)
    So, the next time you see an internship "coworker" in your company, do the math, and get the hell out of this sweat-shop.
    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      Ssshhh, don't give away Hollywood's dirty secret. The entire LA area will have a severe waiter shortage if anyone gets wind of this.

    • by toriver (11308)

      Plus the "EA Spouse" [livejournal.com] debacle of course led the entire Slashdot herd to boycotting Electronic Arts' games.

      No? Inhuman working conditions are not an issue as long as they get to play Dragon Age?

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        I thought the reason EA was boycotted was because they make no games that anyone actually wants to play?

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      I can't speak for every company, but in my company internships are viewed as a way to recruit talent while also providing a service and still getting some level of business benefit. The process resembles Google's Summer of Code in a sense - anybody who wants to hire an intern has to essentially propose some kind of project and there is a selection process. You can't hire an intern and just give them a stack of papers to file. They can perform routine administrative tasks as part of their job just like an

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      How is this different from the US? Internships here are rarely for education, it's for cheap labor. Offer some bogus college credits so that the student takes fewer classes and they'll gladly put up with lower wages. Then there's the absurdity of offering internships during summer when the student isn't even in school; when I was in school we called this sort of thing a summer job! That's just the tech industry, in other areas internships are even more abused.

  • You got your iCrap (TM) why would it matter to you how it was made and who made it? It's so shiny and Apple claims it really, really cool.
    • Re:Who cares (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <{taiki} {at} {cox.net}> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:35PM (#39048525)

      It's so shiny and Apple claims it really, really cool.

      You mean nokia, HTC, moto, sony, samsung, et al aren't Foxconn's customers?

      • by Pope (17780)

        Of course they are. Apple just happens to be the hand-picked boogey man at this time.

        • Re:Who cares (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Stele (9443) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:47PM (#39048731) Homepage

          Makes sense. Apple makes a HUGE margin on their devices and has $80B+ in the bank. They could certainly afford to build them right here in America, and still make a nice profit, but they choose not to.

          • To be fair people don't buy iPhones as such. Most iPhones come on a contract and is over paid for by a large margin. The increase in cost would be largely paid by the cell phone companies who will be reluctant to charge more than the other cell companies, for the sake of what $40 is the sum banded around.
            The Itouch and wifi only tablets would be more expensive but they could still be produced in china or people can go for the contract option and 3g

            The only losers as such would be the cellphone carri

            • Regardless, islaves make Apple money. Everything else is just spin and damage control.

              But hey, did you hear about the features on the next ipad?

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          Biggest customer with the biggest clout, thus more likely to achieve some sort of change at Foxconn. Of course Tim Cook whines about this and implies that no one else has to deal with consumers worried about worker welfare. But if being number one is too much pressure then it's not hard to let yourself slip back to number two and let someone else be in the spotlight.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:32PM (#39048475) Homepage Journal

    One day you might get paid!

  • Wow. (Score:3, Funny)

    by DC2088 (2343764) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:37PM (#39048561)
    I feel incredibly guilty for not researching the company behind my Kindle before giving them my money. Of course, I'd feel even guiltier if I were reading this post on my Kindle.
    • Well what can you do at this point, Foreign labor policies are horrific, but if you wanted to avoid supporting any of them, you'd have had to mail in your post via the united states post office (I don't think it is possible to get first posts that way, any legitimate company that wanted to avoid labor, would not be able to compete on price, and thus would be bankrupt in weeks.
  • Train 'em right, and they'll never leave.

    Wasn't there a church with that same philosophy?

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:45PM (#39048689) Homepage

    "In light of a series of reports that have emerged over the years, one of many dark stories of suicide now points at one of the lesser-known but more unsavory aspects of Foxconn's much-criticized labor practices: with the help of schools and government officials, the company runs a massive internship program built not on voluntary education but on 'compelled' factory work for teenage students. According to Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation

    Which is also called slavery.

    This is yet another reason why we shouldnt be manufacturing in hellholes that will bend over backwards for business, but snap the backs of the people that work for them (should they ask for more than the company approved allotment of freedom).

    Perhaps US & EU manufacturing isn't a bad idea after all.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why do you hate capitalism so much?

    • by toriver (11308)

      Internships are also common in America, I thought you had abolished slavery? And Foxconn factories are less hellholes than the subsistence farms they fled to get experience and work.

      US & EU manufacturing is not a bad idea in itself, but the cheap consumers and high volumes needed force the companies' hands. Even Samsung recently moved their camera manufacturing from Korea to China to save money. Plus if you really mean that, you would need to move all manufacturing - parts and assembly - here. Do you th

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Nobody in the US is compelled to take an internship, and as a rule they have to at least pay minimum wage. They also need to fully comply with OSHA standards. The rules in the US are likely not quite as strong as those in Europe, but the contrast with China will be dramatic.

        Now, the word "internship" in the US does mean different things to different people. In some shops it basically means minimum-wage temp employee. In others it isn't unlike Google's Summer of Code where you're given real projects with

        • by timeOday (582209)
          Unpaid internships happen to be a big issue in the US right now due to some lawsuits [nytimes.com] filed recently. Read the article; there are lots of degree programs you can't finish without giving companies unpaid labor first. Just like in China.
      • by Culture20 (968837)

        Internships are also common in America, I thought you had abolished slavery?

        Compelled Internships are not common in America (claims regarding Sea Org notwithstanding).

        Do you think there are enough workers in the West to man those jobs?

        Yes. There are plenty of people who are not working who would like a factory job (although not if they were forced into it at gunpoint).

  • by mounthood (993037) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:56PM (#39048905)

    ~50 years of rationalizing US involvement in China has been predicated on the idea that the US will help make China a better place. Well, this is the decade of truth. Cisco got paid to build the 'Great Firewall of China', and Apple - and many others - have made fortunes exploiting cheap labor. Will the US now use it's hard won influence to make China better, or was that all bullshit?

    • Will the US now use it's hard won influence to make China better, or was that all bullshit?

      Or will "competitive pressure" make the US worse.

    • by sethstorm (512897)

      The only involvement that the US should have with China is one that is harmful to China and beneficial to US citizens.

      1989 was about the last time China could have turned things around. Now you have an entire generation of people used to slavery and opposed to freedom that are beyond repair.

      • by voss (52565) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:00PM (#39050439)

        Uh you did know that china had been communist for 41 years prior to tianamen square? Right?

        The chinese people haven't given up and the china of 2012 is better than the china of 1989. There is more civil society
        in china now than there was 20 years ago. China still has a long way to go but things have changed. Do you even think
        20 years ago we would have even heard about what was going on in these factories???

        Cutting off china won't make china free, it will just make it isolated like we did with North Korea and Cuba.
        Embargoing Cuba has worked out great...oh wait Fidel Castro is still in power.

        • by sethstorm (512897)

          Uh you did know that china had been communist for 41 years prior to tianamen square? Right?

          While they were communist before Tiananmen, the massacre demonstrated that China was not interested in any large scale of freedom. The most that they were interested in was courting multinationals and supplying a pliant labor pool that was/is highly resistant to upward wage pressures and worker-side freedoms.

          The chinese people haven't given up and the china of 2012 is better than the china of 1989. There is more civil society
          in china now than there was 20 years ago. China still has a long way to go but things have changed. Do you even think
          20 years ago we would have even heard about what was going on in these factories???

          The working age population of 2012 is less aspirant of freedom than the working age population of 1989. All they know is that some people tried to topple the government for something called liberty, a

    • by tmosley (996283)
      What, you think China isn't better not than it was 50 years ago?

      All that "exploitation" urbanized them and raised salaries to the point that their economy is almost as large as ours.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:18PM (#39049395)

    The excellent documentary/drama hybrid "24 City" [wikipedia.org] (made by talented Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke) has a lot of details on this practice (at least as it existed at one time). Many of the participants talk about mandatory factory internships in high school (considered a communist obligation, apparently). You got assigned to a factory in your junior year and worked there from then on (part time at first, apparently). Then you either go to college or move on to full-time. They made it sound pretty benign. But then again, they made it sound pretty benign when the government forced families to break up too.

  • Apple might do better to just automate the manufacturing process. Putting together things like the Sony Walkman and cell phones has been automated by others for years. Apple makes so many identical units and has so few product variants that they're the classic case for hard automation. Most of the other cell phone makers have far more product variants.

    Apple, though, may no longer have in-house manufacturing expertise. They also may be out of touch with their supply chain

  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:15PM (#39050735)

    They're sending people on "Jobseekers Allowance" into "internships" with the likes of Tesco (our own national Wal-Mart), on the promise of gaining useful job experience which will gain them employment. So they stack shelves for the duration of their internship, which gives them literally zero marketable experience (and indeed, probably damages their prospects - who wants to hire a shelf-stacker for anything less menial?)

    If they leave after a short "cooling off period", their benefits will be cut off, removing even the social safety net provided by the state. While Tesco have been recruiting unpaid interns on a voluntary basis for some years now, this recent trend is essentially state-sponsored slavery, and sounds eerily like the complicity of the Chinese local government in these Foxconn internships.

    • by wadeal (884828)
      So the Government gives them money and in return they are asked to perform some kind of service? How is that in any possible way slavery? That is literally the definition of a job.
      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        they should be doing a service to the taxpayers not to the corporations.

        if they had to pick up garbage off the side of the road or sweep streets or help at a city recycling plant that would be fine
      • The definition of a "job" in the UK includes being paid a minimum wage.

        Since you can't claim Job Seekers Allowance if you're working more than 16 hours a week, we'll assume that they are being given 16 hours a week work as interns, which means they're earning 54% of minimum wage. Again, eerily similar to Foxconn, who give their interns about half the wage of their standard factory workers.

        If these interns were being put to some general social use I would be less offended by it*, but a vast, profitable corpo

      • They don't have any other options since the private sector thinks that anything but a supplicant labor pool is too generous.

        Why not make it so that the job seeker gets to choose the employer, and the employer can't refuse them? Same bargain, just with the tables turned.

    • They're sending people on "Jobseekers Allowance" into "internships" with the likes of Tesco (our own national Wal-Mart), on the promise of gaining useful job experience which will gain them employment. So they stack shelves for the duration of their internship, which gives them literally zero marketable experience (and indeed, probably damages their prospects - who wants to hire a shelf-stacker for anything less menial?)

      They gain the invaluable experience of actually working. That's very marketable. If two kids apply for a job, one says "I left school, sat on my fat arse and did nothing", the other says "I left school, couldn't find a decent job, so I took whatever I could get, including washing cars, stacking shelves...", which one would you hire? The one doing menial work, or the one doing nothing?

  • by JimCanuck (2474366) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:26PM (#39050905)

    Vocational training, even if not directly related to the students chosen field is not only suggested by the Chinese Labor law, its nearly required to be done by universities. During the Mao era, sending students off to farms to work the fields was considered a "good" educational experience for the students, now that China has viable factories to handle the students, they are sent there.

    Article 66 The State, through various means, take various measures to expand vocational training undertakings, the development of professional skills of laborers, improve the quality of workers and enhance their employment capability and work ability.
    Article 67 The people's government at all levels should develop vocational training into the socio-economic development planning, and various forms of vocational training to encourage and support qualified enterprises, institutional organizations, social organizations and individuals.
    Article 68 The employing units shall establish a vocational training system, the extraction and use of funds for vocational training in accordance with state regulations, according to its practical, planned way and laborers with professional training.

    Fact #1 - Foxconn currently employs 1.3 MILLION people. It employed 920,000 people in 2010 when the suicides happened.
    Fact #2 - The number of suicides (and attempted suicides) in a year that sparked "outrage" is 18.
    Fact #3 - The suicide rate in the United States is 11.8 per 100,000 people.
    Fact #4 - The suicide rate in the Peoples Republic of China is sitting at 22.2 per 100,000 people.
    Fact #5 - Basic math skills, show that Foxconn enjoys a suicide rate of 2 per 100,000 people.

    Don't you think that the suicide rate would be higher then the rest of China if things were actually that bad? After all its a tenth of the rest of China, and its nearly 6 times under the American suicide rate.

    Fact is, currently in China, based on what I'm getting from Chinese media, and the wife's family, jobs are in a shorter supply then people who are leaving rural areas to go to work in these factories. Companies like Foxconn are well known, and people fight over the jobs.

    The internships are paying at least minimum wage, as the article suggests. Foxconn on top of the salary of its employees includes free accommodations and food, which makes Foxconn a very attractive place to work as many of the employees work there simply to afford to send their income back "home" where their parents live in impoverished conditions. China is labelled a "developing" country for a reason.

    Overtime in China is restricted to no more then 36 hours a month, and no more then 3 hours on any one day, overtime must be paid out at 1.5 times. Over time on weekends is automatically double time, and over time on holidays is triple time. Salaried workers like here, where you could work a 60 hour a week without any additional compensation is outright illegal.

    Yes workers do start work at say 8am, and end at 8pm in China, giving them a 12 hour day, however, like is the custom in many countries (including Europe) lunch breaks in China typically involve at least 2 hours, and 4 hour lunch breaks are common. There working hours before reaching over time is however limited to 40 like most of the world. Which is similar to here, you work from 9am to 5:30pm, with a half hour unpaid lunch in many jobs or you simply get docked the half hour's pay between 9 to 5.

    As for this "living minimum wage" its not a issue with Foxconn its a issue with everyone in China, which is why the Chinese have been increasing it between 15-30% per year for the last few years. The Chinese standards of living are increasing, costs are increasing due to the industrialization, and while it might not be ideal, their minimum wages have been increasing at a greater rate then any developed nation. Complaining about that, is like complaining that the 7.25$ that is minimum wage in NY is the company that employs you fault that it costs 3 times that to live in NYC. It happens everywhere
    • by plopez (54068)

      Prisoners get housing and get paid a pittance for their labor too. And they are not allowed to say "no" either. Either work or get thrown into "the hole". Without freedom to choose it is all meaningless. It also dislocates the labor market by keeping people from going to where a shortage may be.

  • "According to SACOM, vocational students, including those studying journalism, tourism and languages, have had practically no choice but to participate in such internships if they want to graduate from their schools. As temporary workers, they have little legal protection or recourse in the event of injury, over-work, or underpayment. And if they complain, they could jeopardize their diplomas." Why would a vocational school require you to go to work for Foxconn to get qualified school credit or to even get
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:34PM (#39051041)

    Chicago Bread LLC / Panera Bread no pay, drive site to site and Assist with deliveries, inventory, ordering supplies.

    They want you to have drive 20-50 miles to get to some of the stores? Will they pay for that? It can cost $15-25 in gas / other car costs + tolls that can add up to about $3-4 each way?

    -deliveries, inventory! a intern is not a shipping, copy, coffee boy.

    Hear is old job ad for them

    IT Internship

    Chicago Bread LLC, dba Panera Bread, is looking for an IT Intern to help the IT team in the Chicago market. Gain real-world experience in the work force with a well-known company!

    Job Responsibilities:

    Support the IT Team in the maintenance of hardware, software and other systems

    Must troubleshoot issues with equipment like printers, computers, servers and register repairs

    Assist with deliveries, inventory, ordering supplies, laptop management and server room management

    Education:

    Must be in pursuit of an Associates or Bachelors degree in computer science or have an

    AS or BS in IT and looking for experience in the field.

    Desired skills:

    Excellent communication, time management and interpersonal skills

    Strong leadership/motivation skills

    Positive attitude

    Excellent analytical and problem solving ability

    Ability to travel to cafés for support

    Hours:

    Part time -- 2-3 days a week or as needed

    Location:

    3051 Oak Grove Road

    Downers Grove, IL 60515

    Email resume and school schedule

            Location: Downers Grove, IL
            it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
            Compensation: no pay

  • It seems both sad and appropriate that these conditions are revealed on the Charles Dickens Bi-Centennial. That this garbage still exists is a crime. This is where unfettered Capitalism ( not a Free Market, if labor can't say no it is not a Free Market) leads to. And the Libertarians would be more than happy to have us all enslaved by the corporations.

  • Doesn't sound all too different from the thousands of interns that work unpaid internships in Washington DC. Instead of working for Foxconn assembling useful products however, they slave away for the US government, think tanks and NGO's making coffee, churning out white papers no one reads and other drudge work with the promise that the networks they build will one day land them a magical job in the political machinery.
  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @05:07PM (#39051687)
    While Foxconn is an apparent beneficiary, the actual responsible party is the Chinese government. It is not stated whether Foxconn had any involvement in legislating the policy. The Henan provincial government is reported as having mandated internships as a requirement of completing a course of study, while undefined local government agencies appear to have a kickback scheme for filling worker quotas, also linked to graduation. Under free-market capitalism, the government has no say in education, and cannot coerce students into labor while concurrently enriching itself. Such empirical consequences of government intervention in the economy should give pause to those calling for a similar environment in the US.

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