Investigation finds children as young as 14 working at Foxconn

foxconn workers apple iphone ipad macMore controversy has hit Foxconn this week, as workers under the age of 16 have been found working in one of its factories, breaking not only Chinese labor laws, but also Foxconn’s own regulations.

Rather than the news being broken through a series of leaks or by an undercover expose, the scandal was confirmed through an internal investigation carried out by the Hon Tai Precision Industry, Foxconn’s parent company. This wasn’t solely done out of the goodness of its heart though, but after Chinese media and the China Labor Watch group accused the company of employing underage workers.

A group of interns aged between 14 and 16 were found to be working at the Foxconn factory in the Yantai province, and had been there for around three weeks. Recently, Foxconn had appealed for extra workers in the area, after it found itself needing 19,000 extra personnel to cover a staff shortage.

Although the report doesn’t state how many underage workers were found in the plant, Chinadaily.com says that Foxconn has sent 56 interns back to their schools. A statement from the company says it takes “full responsibility for these violations” and it has “apologized to each of the students for [its] role in this action.

A statement from China Labor Watch says schools are as much to blame as Foxconn, as that’s who sent the underage interns to the company in the first place. Foxconn however, did not check the IDs of these young interns, or failed to recognize fakes.

Interns, conditions and child labor at Foxconn

Foxconn’s interns are essentially trainees, who must complete a one to three-month course before becoming fully fledged employees, which includes instruction on the company’s ethos and expectations, plus 10-hours work a day on the production line. The Chinadaily.com report says interns usually earn less than 2,000 yuan per month, which is around $320.

This isn’t the first time Foxconn has been found to employ underage workers, as Apple discovered 91 children below the age of 16 working there during an audit in 2010. Apple stopped working with the factory that employed almost 50-percent of those workers, and according to its Supplier Responsibility code of conduct, hasn’t found evidence of underage workers since.

NBC.com says the Yantai plant doesn’t produce Apple hardware, and a source speaking to Chinadaily.com says the workers were assembling gamepads for the Nintendo Wii. As a company, Foxconn builds products for Dell, Sony, Intel, Acer and many others.

The discovery of more children working at Foxconn is another in a string of scandals to hit the company in the last few weeks alone, following on from reports of strikes due to intolerable living conditions, riots and earlier in the year, suicide threats too. Despite this, a report by the Fair Labor Association says conditions at some of Foxconn’s factories are improving.

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