What that iPad really costs



Between a factory tour by ABC’s “Nightline” and an investigation by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), it might appear that something is actually being done to help the subsistence-wage Chinese workers at Foxconn who make products for Apple, Hewlett Packard, Dell, IBM and others.

Don’t buy it.

Chinese workers contend with a level of competition for jobs that is simply unimaginable in less populous countries. They accept dismal conditions because they must.

What most Westerners probably don’t know is that Foxconn’s factory complexes also house and feed their workers – barely. Living space is a cot in a room crammed with others. Meals are mostly rice and watery soup. Workdays of 12 hours or more, six or seven days a week, are typical. Permission to leave the grounds often is denied.

Even so, Chinese job-seekers mob Foxconn recruiters wherever they appear.

Two years ago, a Chinese reporter for an English-language newspaper in Beijing wrote a revealing article that described what it took to get one of those highly sought-after jobs at Foxconn. Here are a few excerpts, with a link below to the whole article:

“If your diploma is not genuine, you will be asked to pay for a fake one at a cost of 10 to 100 yuan, depending on how deep your wallet is perceived to be.”

“You will be taken to a minivan of 11 seats. About 18 people and all their luggage will be on board, so travel light and try to find a spot with breathing room.”

“The driver will escort you inside the training center, where harsh-looking men and women in uniforms await…You may be shouted at, intimidated, humiliated and bullied. …be obedient.”

“You will be taken across the street for body inspections. All you need to do is be obedient, stand straight and wait until you are ordered to go inside.”

“Note that you will be waiting with 1,000 others, so be patient and ignore the sweat. Don’t worry about the blood exams.”

“…you will be taken to a dormitory and assigned a bed in a room of 10. You should now be used to the smell of sweat, so bear with it.

“The orientation goes on for two days. Make no attempt to challenge the authority of anyone in uniform…”

“You will be given a badge and assigned a unit to work in at the end of the second day. Work starts the following morning with no prior training.”

Finger-shaking from the FLA might elicit promises of compliance with higher standards, but those won’t be honored by Chinese bosses.China is a lawless society, with no reliable way for complaints to be heard or rights to be protected. Demands, suggestions or recommendations from international groups and Western businesses will be rejected as improper meddling.

They just wait out sporadic spates of public attention, which don’t last long, then go back to business as usual.

Remember, Foxconn’s response after 10 workers jumped from their dormitories to kill themselves was to put up nets.


Top photo of Foxconn job seekers from China Daily

“Fees, humiliation part of getting wired to Foxconn,” by Hu Yinan, China Daily – http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/2010-06/01/content_11019305.htm

Foxconn job seekers doing pushups- http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/photo/2010-03/25/content_9643599.htm

 “We mostly found people who face their days through soul-crushing boredom and deep fatigue,” wrote Nightline host Bill Weir in a story previewing the show. http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/02/20/apple-foxconn-offer-world-glimpse-into-chinese-manufacturing-plants/




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