Foxconn Admits Employing Underage ‘Interns’

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Foxconn has apologised for employing 14 year old ‘interns’ at its factories and has sent them back to school

Foxconn, the Taiwanese company responsible for manufacturing consumer devices including the iPhone 5, has confessed it has been employing teenagers as young as 14 at one of its Chinese factories.

According to Chinese law, employers can be fined or have their business licenses revoked for hiring workers under 16.

The company has apologised and promised to return ‘interns’ into education immediately. It has also changed its policy to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

The kids are alright

Foxconn employs around 1.2 million people in China and makes products for Apple, Dell, Sony and Hewlett-Packard, among others.

After a campaign by labour rights activists and damning reports in the local media, the company launched an internal investigation into its employment practices. It found that some of the summer ‘interns’ working at a plant in Yantai, Shandong province, were under the legal working age of 16.

There are no reports on how many underage workers were employed.

“Our investigation has shown that the interns in question, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, had worked in that campus for approximately three weeks,” Foxconn said in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday.

“We recognise that full responsibility for these violations rests with our company and we have apologized to each of the students for our role in this action,” it added.

The company has assured that it has taken “immediate steps” to return the children to their schools. It also claimed that it found no evidence of underage workers being hired at any of its other Chinese factories.

“These underage interns were mainly sent to Foxconn by schools, but Foxconn did not check the IDs of these young interns. ” explained China Labour Watch. “The schools involved in this incident should take primary responsibility, but Foxconn is also culpable for not confirming the ages of their workers.”

Foxconn and Apple have been cooperating to improve working conditions after a series of widely-publicised employee suicides in 2010 and several reports of labour abuses.

Earlier this month, the company denied claims that one of its factories has been hit by a “large-scale” strike. Chinese media had reported that the industrial action was caused by unreasonable demands for quality control and the requirement to work through the national holiday.

In September, it emerged that university and college students from Huai’an in Jiangsu province had their lessons suspended so they could focus on manufacturing the iPhone 5.

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