Foxconn takes heat for using teens to build Amazon devices

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Amazon Echo
Foxconn has another problem with underage workers.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Frequent Apple contract manufacturer Foxconn recruited kids as young as 16 to work on its production lines, leaked documents show. The company reportedly pushed the teenagers to work nights and overtime as part of the job.

On this occasion, however, Apple isn’t the company under fire. The recruits (classed as “interns”) were working on the Amazon production line. They were building devices like the Echo smart speakers.

The Guardian newspaper broke the story. It says Foxconn drafted in teenaged employees from schools and technical colleges. Teachers were “asked to encourage uncooperative pupils” to accept overtime work. In exchange for finding recruits, Foxconn paid schools 500 yuan ($70) a month per pupil. Interns earned 16.54 yuan ($2.34) per hour, inclusive of overtime and other add-ons. In total, Foxconn hired more than 1,000 pupils.

Foxconn has admitted wrongdoing. It also says that it has taken steps the solve the problem. In a statement, Foxconn noted that:

“We have doubled the oversight and monitoring of the internship program with each relevant partner school to ensure that, under no circumstances, will interns [be] allowed to work overtime or nights.”

Amazon says that it is “urgently investigating these allegations.” Following the complaints, it will work with executives at Foxconn to address them.

Challenges in the supply chain

Foxconn became infamous as one of Apple’s lead manufacturers in the early 2000s. At the time, a number of suicides had taken place at Foxconn factories.

Underage workers have been a problem at multiple manufacturers in China. In 2013, a 15-year-old employee died after working on the iPhone production line at supplier Pegatron. In the aftermath, Pegatron installed facial recognition technology to try and crack down on underage workers.

Apple has worked hard to improve conditions in its supply chain. It frequently publishes audits of its suppliers. These reports reveal the progress that has been made. In Apple’s 2019 report, it said that it had discovered one case of underage labor. This 15-year-old employee obtained their job through use of false identification.

While steps have been taken to solve this problem of underage labor, it’s clearly still happening. Hopefully this story will help raise more awareness of it. In doing so, it may be possible to stamp out this issue once and for all.