Friday, April 13, 2012

Watch Foxconn assemble an iPad [VIDEO]

Marketplace Shanghai Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz recently became on the second reporter to ever be allowed inside a Foxconn factory in China (the first was ABC's Bill Weir). The report really adds little to our knowledge of conditions at Foxconn, really just reaffirming them, but a video (embedded below) shows an iPad being assembled, something new in the discussion about Apple's biggest manufacturing partner.

The report elaborates on some things we already knew. For one, although Foxconn's factories are called just that, factories, they are really more like small cities. There are stores, theaters, banks, restaurants, and of course dorms where about 50,000 of the 240,000 employees at the Shenzhen factory live (but in shared dorm rooms).

Most of the employees at Foxconn are migrant workers, though not in the way folks in the U.S. think of them. They come to Foxconn sites from faraway locations in China, living in or near the factory.

Interestingly, Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, who we've written about before, spoke candidly about the suicide nets the company installed after the rash of suicides in 2010.

Not only did Foxconn's order wipe out the entire Asian supply of netting for weeks, Woo said,

"“I don’t care how they look, if we can save one life with these nets, they’re completely worth it. After we installed the nets in the summer of 2010, two workers jumped. One of them died. The other lived."

In terms of worker conditions, it's as you might expect. The report details familiar complaints that we've heard before: not being paid or even allowed to bill for overtime they worked, being forced to work when sick, and on and on. As you might expect, the work is boring, with one worker saying frin an iPad assembly line saying obvious: the job is “incredibly boring and repetitive.”

That said, despite what are known to be issues, some severe, some workers didn't think things were all that bad. “Many workers laughed, telling me it’s not really that bad,” the report said.

It's the way of globalization, however. Workers in countries like China, Brazil, Mexico, wherever, may think the conditions aren't that bad (suicides notwithstanding). Show them to a consumer of the end goods in a Western country, and they would likely be shocked.

That's what happened after the New York Times first reported on the issues: shock. That said, record sales of the new iPad seem to indicate that in the long run, selfishness and the desire for the latest electronics at cheap prices wins out over any moral issues Westerners seem to have.

No comments: