Crappy internships have become a sort of initiation process that American students subject themselves to in order to enter the workplace. Working for free for 4 months – making copies, fetching coffee, and filing paperwork – sounds like hell for a lot of American students, who love to complain about the hardships of their internships.
Well, turns out American interns have a pretty beautiful life compared to their Chinese counterparts at Foxconn who are forced into internships that resemble slave labor and are told they will not graduate unless they spend months working on the production lines.
Campaigners in China are accusing Apple, Foxconn, and the Fair Labor Association (FLA) of ignoring the issue of forced internships that are a gross violation of human rights. Foxconn hires an average of 27,000 interns a month to assemble Apple devices, yet interns have fewer rights than Foxconn employees, many of whom are studying nursing, languages, music and art… in other words, fields in which an internship at Foxconn will not be helpful.
According to reports from Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), student interns are being forced into three- and six-month internships at Foxconn, during which many experience 10-hour days and seven-day work weeks. Universities are acting more like employment agencies than places of learning, funneling students into Foxconn’s factories by telling them they must work at the factory in order to graduate.
The FLA described the hiring of interns as a “source of much controversy” but failed to highlight the seriousness of the issue. The FLA even admits that regulating intern’s rights is tricky because under Chinese labor laws they are not classified as employees, and no employment relationship exists between the factory and interns. This makes interns the most vulnerable to abuse while also being the least protected because of loopholes in Chinese labor laws that Foxconn can exploit.
Many students in “First World” countries are used to working menial jobs for an opportunity to get their foot in the door. But the problem with Foxconn’s treatment of their interns isn’t that the jobs are menial, it’s that they are forced into an experience that isn’t relevant to their education, they’re working longer hours than employees for doing the same work, and their rights are practically unprotected. Being forced to slave away in a factory for 6-months just so you can get your art degree is completely worthless when you have no desire to get a job in manufacturing or tech after graduation.
What do you think? Are the Foxconn interns mistreated, or is this no different than the experience of students across the globe?
[via The Guardian]