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I’ve been holding off writing about Foxconn’s woes in its factories in Southern China.  There, multiple suicides have made international headlines and have highlighted working conditions in Chinese factories. 


Taiwan-based Foxconn (AKA Hon Hai)has been dragged from relative anonymity of contract electronics manufacturing services (EMS) into the glaring spotlight, together with its customers, Apple, Dell, HP and others.  Under the lamp, Foxconn’s practices have been examined for evidence as to why young people are committing suicide on the Foxconn manufacturing megasite in Shenzhen.  Shenzhen is a city of about 14 million people (approximately 12 million of them are migrant workers), about 40 miles from Hong Kong.  The press and Human Rights activists point to the low pay, long hours and cramped working conditions.


But all of the stories seem to be out of context.  If you consider the suicide rates for high school and  college students in the US (approximately the same age group), you’ll find that the Foxconn rate is actually quite low: 5.4 per 100,000 which is roughly one-half the rate in the US.  If you consider the wages and working conditions at Foxconn vs other factories in Southern China, you’ll find that they are competitive if not slightly better.


Foxconn is by far the largest contract manufacturer in the world, with about 400,000 workers in China alone.  As a result, they are often the industry leader in innovation, trends and tactics in the management of their manufacturing and assembly operations.  They are also a target for the criticism launched by the Western world and human rights activists. 


All facts and context  considered, Foxconn should not be criticized for their working environment, and the Western world needs to calm down.




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