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Rogar
1-9-12, 6:26pm
Have you ever heard of Foxconn? I had not until a NPR program (This American Life) did a feature on it. It is a Chinese based company with 1.3 million (!) employees. They specialize mostly in outsourced electronics for American and European companies and are the manufacturer of iPads, iPhones, Xbox, Kindle, and more. Their largest facility is in Shenzhen and is a virtual city with 500,00 employees. With most workers housed in crowded dormitories, by far the "city" has the highest population density in the world, more than five times as dense as Mumbai.

As you might expect, there have been accusations of child labor and poor working conditions, but I couldn't really see from what little reading I did that they used sweatshop conditions found with some Indonesian manufacturers. I suppose it is just a part of China's growing pains.

I don't have a huge opinion good or bad about them, but have always thought it is important to know about the source of the products we use. I was amazed I had not ever hear of one of the largest private employers in the world.

San Onofre Guy
1-10-12, 8:50am
They used to have an assembly facility down the hill from me in Fullerton CA

mtnlaurel
1-10-12, 9:10am
Seriously, it's THAT unprofitable for American or European companies to build or refurbish factories in our own countries and hire our own citizens when our own economies seem to be hanging in the balance?

That just bums the crap of me...
along with catching glimpses of the History Channel's The Crumbling of America this morning while son was getting ready for school, it makes this college history major just shake my head in concern .... or maybe that was disgust.

lhamo
1-10-12, 2:53pm
Foxconn was all over the news here last year following a string of suicides at their factories. Those were largely attributed to an incredibly intense work schedule and the social pressures of the living situation. There have also been issues with exposure to toxic chemicals that lead to major health complications.

I have mixed feelings about this whole issue. On the one hand, people from rural China with minimal education and other opportunity can get what are (in the local context) decent paying jobs that allow them to build up cash to build a home in their rural community and maybe eventually move on to other types of work, including starting/running small businesses. In the local context, what seem like exploitative wages and miserable living conditions may actually be a huge improvement over what they have available at home (rural poverty is still a significant issue in China). On the other hand, sometimes these kinds of jobs are really more like indentured servitude, with "company store" type situations that lock people into jobs that they get little benefit from and find it hard to escape. It is complicated, obviously. I'm glad This American Life ran the story, though. There are lots of people running around with I-whatevers (myself included) who really have no idea the conditions their favorite toys were produced under. However, I would hazard a guess that most factories producing stuff for Apple, etc. are at least somewhat better than the disastrous small-scale factories that produce the pollution you can see here:

http://www.ministryoftofu.com/2011/12/photos-chinese-river-turns-bloody-from-pollution-from-dyehouses/

lhamo

Lainey
1-10-12, 8:13pm
Seriously, it's THAT unprofitable for American or European companies to build or refurbish factories in our own countries and hire our own citizens when our own economies seem to be hanging in the balance?


Excellent article on this topic in this month's The Atlantic magazine. It looks at 20-somethings in a U.S. factory and parses how their skill level and knowledge vs. the increasing use of robotic technology make it a close call on having a job vs. no job. Puts a human face on this issue while explaining the economic side very well.

So even though jobs are being out-sourced to countries with cheaper labor, the real competition may be, Can a robot do your job? One photo in the article shows a manufacturing plant running product with no apparent humans, and the caption "Can you see the employees?"

loosechickens
1-11-12, 12:09pm
I saw this today......

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/10/300-chinese-foxconn-workers-threaten-mass-suicide_n_1196345.html

story that alleges 300 workers on the roof of a Foxconn facility threatening mass suicide, in dispute over pay and not receiving what was owed to them.

Lainey
1-11-12, 9:17pm
Shame on Sony, Apple and Microsoft. They have the power and the means to demand vendors treat their employees better, and yet this continues year after year.