Forced student labour at the heart of the Chinese economic miracle
Forced student labour army in China is making Apple products, Playstation consoles and other gadgets for the Western countries. George Osborne and Boris Johnson, two Guardian journalists visited the factories of large computers brands subcontractors and rely on the testimony of Zhang Lintong, collected from 63 other by Jenny Chan, Pun Ngai and Mark Selden, writing a forthcoming book about child exploitation in China’s electronics industries.
In June 2011, Zhang and teenage classmates were taken out of their family homes and dispatched to a factory making electronic gagdets.The students were away for a six-month internship at a giant Foxconn plant in the southern city of Shenzhen, a 20-hour train ride from their home in central China. This practice is illegal in China. Moreover Zhang study the contemporary Russian art, not electronics. However he was to spend half a year turning out iPhones and other consumer eletronics. He and his classmates, were forced to sleep in different factory dormitories, among adult strangers. Given the same uniforms as the regular workers, the internship training was rudimentary. “It’s tiring and boring“, he told researchers outside work. ” I very much want to quit but I can’t.”Some students complained about stomach aches, about choking, so they asked about the safety of their workplace. How did their teacher answer? As he later told the researchers, he invoked the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.
If Zhang learned nothing at Foxconn, his testimony is instructive on how young students are exploited. Interns may approximatevly represent 15% of the million Foxconn employees, including 28, 000 students committed in the making of Apple i Phones, and Sony Playstation 4. Apple acknowledged in 2011, in his annual report on the working conditions in its subcontractors factories, having “discovered” that 91 children working on the chains of its subcontractors, Foxconn included, among nearly 400 suppliers. An HR official for Foxconn told the researchers in September 2011 that over than 7,000 students were working in the Chengdu factory, over 10% of the entire staff. Less than a third of these manufacturers respect the legal working hours and 137 of their employees were poisoned by chemicals in 2010.
One chinese supplier, a circuit board component maker called Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics was axed by Apple after 74 children under the age of 16, legal working age in China, were recruited to work on its production lines. According to Apple, the children have been by one of the region’s largest labour agencies, Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources.The chilren were returned to their families and the employer was required to pay expenses to facilitate their successful return, that is to pay for their education and to give them a income equal to their factory wages.
But even more than working conditions is connivance between the educational system (controlled by local governments) and the industry that is denounced by the two journalists. Identity cards of minors have been falsified by the schools that served ponds to unscrupulous contractors. Zhang and his classmates were forced by the local government to work at Foxconn. They could not choose their employer for their internship, for instance an employer that lived in the same city as their family home. The deal is official since the local government boasted to receive about 2 million euros from Foxconn after having successed in reaching its recruitment goals.
The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/14/forced-student-labour-china-apple?CMP=twt_fd&commentpage=1
The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jan/25/apple-child-labour-supply