You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Chinese College Students Forced Into iPhone Assembly Lines Rather than Attend Class

BY Lisa Goldman | Friday, September 7 2012

Chinese college students are being forced to work at Foxconn factories so that the company meets it iPhone 5 production quota, according to the Shanghai Daily. The story was picked up and blogged by CNet.

The Apple production partner was 10,000 workers short to meet its quota ahead of the much-ballyhooed September 12 launch date for the new phone; to make up for the labor shortfall, local academic colleges ordered students onto buses that took them to the factory, where they are forced into "internships" that involved working on assembly lines 12 hours per day, 6 days a week, with neither a contract nor the informed consent of their parents.

According to the Shanghai Daily, the students exposed the story by reporting it on their blogs and other social media platforms. The First Financial Daily published a blog post by one of the students, who describes vividly the conditions in the Foxconn factory (the link is a translation of the Chinese article, via Google Translate).

The students report that they are paid $243.97 per month, from which they must purchase their own food. Classes have been cancelled, with many students now in danger of not graduating on time.

Yu Fangqiang, executive director of Nanjing-based Tianxiagong, a non-government organization focusing on policy advocacy regarding social issues, said he wanted to help students take legal action against their schools.

But some refused for fear of schools taking revenge by not allowing them to graduate, he said.

According to a China National Radio report, teachers from local schools admitted suspending routine classes over the next one or two months. They said the internships were a compulsory course for students to "experience working conditions and promote individual ability," the report said.

The Shanghai Daily adds that only two of the colleges cancelled the "internship" programs with Foxconn following the media exposure. An unnamed official says that the other schools have no plans to do so and "had even punished students who had tried to leave the factory. "

TechinAsia blogger C. Custer notes:

Sadly, this kind of forced internship is not uncommon at Chinese universities, especially technical colleges and lower-ranked schools that are more concerned with collecting tuition payments and other fees than they are about offering students a decent education. Government and school officials have suggested that the internship programs are about broadening students’ horizons and giving them practical job skills. But since many of the students sent to Foxconn have majors like English — majors totally unrelated to work in a high-tech factory — it’s hard to see what the value of this experience would be for most students.

The colleges continue to collect tuition from the students, even as they are forced to work on Foxconn's assembly lines rather than attend classes, adds Custer.