The Real Truth Behind Foxconn’s Suicide Cluster

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The Foxconn suicide mess is all started from job stress. Within half a year, there are 9 suicides with 7 confirmed-deaths in Foxconn’s factory of China, Shenzhen. In order to find out what’s really going on in that factory, the Southern Weekly, described by The New York Times as China’s most influential liberal newspaper, has sent an amateur reporter to slip into Foxconn’s factory to pretend as a worker and the mission is to find out the truth of the suicide cluster.

The deaths of the workers in Foxconn have caused a lot of noise in the IT world. The Macs, iPods, iPhones and iPads are all assembled in Foxconn’s factory of China. And now, without any explains, workers who are assembling these gadgets have gone crazy and some of them killed themselves. After the sixth suicide attempt happened in April, Southern Weekly’s amateur reporter, Liu Zhi Yi, has been arranged to slip into Foxconn’s factory and surprisingly, he faced the workers with well communication while another senior reporter, Yang Ji Bin, has made interviews with the senior management guys. Both of them have found out the real living conditions of Foxconn workers.

*Please take note that the stuff you are going to read below is not a straight translation or human translation. We are just republishing the original Chinese article from Southern Weekly in English with important highlights for you.*

Foxconn workers on a shuttle bus service between dormitories and factory. (Photo: Southern Weekly)

According to Southern Weekly, everything we wanted to know about “life inside the factory” is finally been uncovered by their amateur reporter who disguised as a Foxconn worker. This reporter is a graduate student and his age is perfectly okay to be a worker of Foxconn since the factory only hires teenagers aged 20 or so. He was employed without any problems and in this 28 days of undercover work, he clearly understood what the workers died for and knew how they live. Also, he’s shocked in different ways. He found out that every single one of the workers is living through a life like a clock. They work, they off, they go to sleep. And the next day, they repeat the same thing again. The reporter thinks that the only way to stop this repeating life is that they end their precious life someday.

If you are wondering if they are happy for producing Apple products, the answer is No. They are only happy on the 10th of every month, that’s the day when they get their salaries. On the 10th, the ATM machines are fully crowded with workers and their salaries start from $900 Chinese Yuan (about $130). There’s one special agreement workers could choose to sign for before starting to work. The workers could sign a self-willing overtime working agreement so the factory is not responsible for their long hours of working. Anyway, they still have public holidays just like anyone.

Next, revolutionary and magical gadgets including iPhone and iPad are assembled by these workers and almost all kinds of gadgets in the market comes from them. Most of the workers have no comments about the popular Apple products and they never dream to own the gadgets since their salaries are only enough to buy a knockoff version. While the gadget nerds are discussing about how to spend their money on Apple’s iProducts, these workers are discussing about how to spend their money on those cheap knockoff iPhones.

The undercover reporter also had some chats with the workers during meal time. Some of them told him that they admired those workers who got sick leave approvals to take that chance to get some rest. They also discussed about their jobs to know more about the dangers and harmful stuff that may affect their health. When they talked about the suicide cluster in the factory, they are speechless and some of them even made some jokes of those suicide attempts.

There are some interesting stuff happening in the factory too. For the warehouse trolleys which are required to put tons of goods on it, the workers call these trolleys as their “BMWs”. While they are pulling their so-called BMWs, they have the motivation to get the job done in order to get a real BMW in the future. Also, there are some internet cafes hiding in some restaurants outside the factory which provide online porn videos for these miserable young men who fails to find a lover in the working environment. Some of them complaint that the videos are not enjoyable to watch for a long period of time. It’s better to find a girlfriend instead. Other than that, the female workers will get frustrated when products could not pass through the quality control. They will use “metal stick” to knock the pin machines to release their frustration. Somehow, the machine will run smooth after the frustration knock.

Lottery tickets littered by workers. (Photo: Southern Weekly)

Moreover, the workers always dream for being rich someday. To fulfill this dream, they would make use part of their salaries to buy lottery tickets. They also put their hopes on horse-racing gambling too. You may wonder, since there are still hopes in their life, why they would still kill themselves? Well, colleague-friendship is a big problem in the factory. There are some workers who do not know the names of their roommates even though they have worked together for a long time. According to the editor of Southern Weekly, it seems like the workers do not treat each other as friends because they are always wearing the same working uniform and doing the same work everyday. This makes one to be looking at his own “mirror reflection”. They have no interesting topics to chat about so they don’t tend to become friends while working together. Thus, if a worker has difficulties or working pressure, he can’t share his feelings or seek someone for help to solve his problems.

What’s more, the workers are superstitious in some ways. Previously, there are some accidents happened like a worker having his finger cut-off during the production of devices. Now, few workers in the factory think that the machines are cursed so it’s dangerous for them to use the machines for their jobs. One of the workers said that he always wish to drop some stuff on the floor so he can bend down to pick it up while working. Due to the long hours of standing (up to 8 hours), if he has the chance to lie or squat down on the floor, it would be the most enjoyable moment during the working period. So, he could get the chance to rest.

Destress-Room-for-Foxconn workers
Destress Room for Foxconn workers. (Photo: Southern Weekly)

My Conclusion:

With over 400,000 of workers in the Foxconn factory of China, it will be a mess if workers are mistreated badly. It’s definitely a pity for them to carry out mass production of iProducts while not being able to afford one. Some of them even killed themselves for the working pressure and I wish Foxconn could produce a better working environment like providing shopping malls, cinemas or karaoke to entertain them. Destress rooms are probably not enough to fix their mental stress and I’m afraid it’s a silly idea since it may lead the stressed worker to kill someone else. Also, Foxconn needs to give more human rights to their workers and give more concerns on them. One thing they must take note is that please don’t treat the workers like dogs. If Foxconn does not solve the problem, there will be more suicides to happen. The workers definitely need beer, romance and slightly higher pays. To say it simple, just make them happy. Let’s hope we don’t see a 10th jump… [Southern Weekly]

Original Article from Southern Weekly

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Just in case you want to know more about Southern Weekly, here are some interesting stuff about it.

Interview of President Obama’s Visit to China by South Weekly

The New York Times talks about Southern Weekly (Only a bit)

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