iPhone 5 Foxconn Workers Are ‘Hopeless’

iPhone 5 Foxconn Workers Are ‘Hopeless’
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Riots have broken out at the Foxconn factory where the iPhone 5 is being assembled. Production was suspended. Reports are that late last Sunday night, approximately 2000 workers became enraged and began to trash the Foxconn Taiyuan campus. The incident was sparked by a security guard allegedly beating two workers.

Photos show the wake of the workers’s destruction. Several interviews that were supposedly done prior to the incident could provide insight as to why the workers were set off.

According to website MIC Gadget, these interviews were done by Wang Yu, an undercover journalist who recently worked at Foxconn and then reported about his time inside. And since he’s left the Foxconn assembly line, the journalist describes a sort of “painful muscle memory”: every time he sees the Apple logo, he experiences muscle pain brought on by assembling the phone.

While working undercover at Foxconn, the journalist made several close friends with the workers. One of them was a 21-year-old worker named Zhao Fei, who was interested in learning more about business and is getting a management degree from university. But what is he learning from his boots on the ground experience?

“The production line I’m arranged in originally needs at least 17 workers, but due to too many worker[s] resign recently, there’s only 7-8 workers left now,” Fei told the journalist. “Despite having not enough workers, we are still being asked to meet the same original production target of 5600 rear panels a day. We are all overstressed!”

It’s not just the stress of trying to hit astronomical targets, but the work conditions.

“The cooling agent used to cool the machines which release a very unbearable smell which is bad for our nose and our throat,” Fei continued. “Originally, we are supposed to be given a new mask everyday, but we are only being given a new mask every week now, this is ridiculous!”

“…now I feel totally loss and hopeless…”

Many of the other workers are also young — like Fei. They’re young and presumably fit. One, 20-year-old Zhang Qiang, recalled how workers had to go through a fitness test during recruitment and recalled how assembling the iPhone 5 caused his hands to get swollen.

Another young worker named Qian Kai, who studied engineering, told the reporter, “…I’ve never been to such a large factory before, but now I feel totally loss and hopeless after I came in…” As these recent riots appear to indicate, he’s not alone.

Next to Fei’s bed, there’s a copy of a book on Steve Jobs. Fei looks up to the Apple creator, professing his admiration for the high quality products his company puts out. But even though Fei is assembling the iPhone 5, don’t expect him to get one any time soon: “I will not change my phone as long as it still works, since I can’t afford an iPhone 5.”

The recent riots at the Foxconn factory seem to be the stress of overworked and underpaid workers coming to a head and lashing out. Clearly there is deep-seated frustration and anger among the employees and no outlet, apart from violence, for that frustration to be released,” Geoff Crothall from a labour rights group in Hong Kong told Reuters. “There is no dialogue and no means of resolving disputes, no matter how minor. So it is not surprising when such disputes escalate into violence.”

Cheap labour shouldn’t mean cheap humanity. C’mon Apple, think different.

iPhone5工厂十天亲历记 [Sina via MIC Gadget]

Top photo: Sina/網易


  • Poor conditions throughout the region are being reported more often and it’s just not Apple who are the troublemakers. Unfortunately until the Hipsters and the Cool Kids (are they the same?) stop wanting shiny new affordable boxes with flashy lights and whistles this will continue as these companies need their 1Bil+ profits.

  • Cheap labor does mean cheap humanity.

    Manufacturing in the West is expensive not just because of the cost of labor (which is cheap compared to other professions in the west) but because of the cost of safety.

    For example it’s unlikely you’d be allowed to expose workers to noxious fumes without adequate safety equipment here.

    • Really?

      When a journo was working on the iPhone 5, interviewed other people making the iPhone 5, and at least one described his life as hopeless?

      I think that whilst shock value, it’s pretty bloody spot on mate.

        • someone who’s not Australian doesn’t know Australian slang and who lives in Japan used a word correctly according to its dictionary definition? stop the presses! honestly this is one of the best Ashcraft articles I’ve seen, sometimes you shouldn’t hate just because it’s ‘the done thing’

  • I wish there was some sort of initiative where these workers were given good conditions and we just footed the bill with more expensive phones, I personally would be okay forking out an extra hundred or two if I knew that the money went to giving the people who built my phone livable working conditions

      • Except you wouldn’t even need to pay an extra $100 or $200 to give these guys a much better salary

        From my totally unscientific calculation:

        Foxconn currently has 150,000 workers making the iPhone 5.
        Last year, Apple sold 18.65 million iPhones.
        Let’s say Apple sells as many iPhones this year (but probably will sell more), if you pay an extra $10 on your phone, each of these 150,000 workers will get an extra $103 per month.
        Now that doesn’t sound like much but it’s still roughly a 25% increase in salary from the $400 average Foxconn employee salary.
        This $503 salary ($400 + $103) is now almost 2.4 times the legal minimum salary in Schenzhen where the largest Foxconn factory is located (and also the area where the minimum salary is the highest in China).

        Of course, by western standards this is a meager salary but by local standards it’s not that bad for a factory job.

        But hey, keep dreaming if you think that the extra money you are willing to pay will not line up the pockets of shareholders…

        • this chinese are lucky they ve got job and earned good money in asian standard in our country got lucky if you got 6 dollar a day..

    • The problem is you are and the “Big Boys” keep the profits . It will always be this way because the modern world cannot afford the robotic and computerised manufacture we were promised last decade , now we have this and Multi billion dollar profiting companies following the old Nike business profile.
      Like many have said “Only the names have changed”

      • No, they can afford ‘robotic and computerised’ manufacturing, they choose not to use it, simply because of the culture of products from companies like Apple have instilled onto consumers: inbuilt obsolescence = buy the same thing every year or two. Have a robotic production line means savings over the long term as changing a line for a new product is very expensive, human hands on the other hand can be changed with just some training, this allows for cheaper and quicker model changes.

        We will be continuing to see this form of manufacturing for many years to come.

    • This would definitely be cool, but I question whether or not a hundred or two would make a difference. I heard (got nothing to back myself up, so take it with a grain of salt) that to make iPads in America they’d end up costing about $10k a pop.

    • One of the many catches is that Apple and the rest aren’t really in a position to make them do anything. Even sending more money won’t help. They send the money, only a tiny fraction makes it to the factory floor, and then what? Apple aren’t in a position to negotiation on this stuff. Any threat they can make is a bluff.
      Foxconn and Chinese manufacturing will go on without Apple but if China cuts Apple off they’ll be shut down by the end of the day and everyone knows it. It sounds dumb and it won’t happen, but if Apple and the rest really dug in on this issue and demanded change that’s how it would end.
      The only people who can end this (without starting World War III) are the workers.

  • A lot of Chinese factories have these sorts of problems (obviously not as big, but this is a huge factory). The owners should be called into account, but corruption would probably stop any investigation anyway.

  • “Next to Fei’s bed, there’s a copy of a book on Steve Jobs. Fei looks up to the Apple creator, professing his admiration for the high quality products his company puts out”

    Jesus Christ. What is wrong with people. You’re being treated like a slave to make the same phones you idolise. Something’s really screwed up with Chinese consumerism, like that kid who sold his kidney for an iPad.

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