In what appears to be another suicide, a worker at the Foxconn facility in Shenzhen, China, fell from a building on the company’s campus May 21. The man’s death is the 10th falling incident at the Foxconn facility in 2010.
The 21-year-old man was the eighth employee this year to be killed in such an incident—suicide hasn’t been officially determined in any of the cases—as two workers have survived such falls, Reuters reported.
Foxconn Technology Group is perhaps best known as being a producer of the Apple iPhone, as well as other popular products from Apple, Sony and Hewlett-Packard.
The Foxconn facility is set up campus-style and houses more than 400,000 of the company’s 800,000 employees, according to Reuters. The majority of workers on the campus are under 30 years old and face extremely long work days—in some cases up to 12 hours—with workers often taking on overtime, for the increased hourly wage, and working weeks at a time without a day off.
“We are extremely tired, with tremendous pressure,” a computer assembly worker told a China Labor Watch group, according to Reuters.
Analysts suggest that the deaths are bad public relations for Apple. Analyst Edward Yu with Analysys International told Reuters, “Nobody wants to buy a product that is associated with a facility at which people kill themselves.”
However, employee deaths at Foxconn so far appear to have given little, if any, pause—Apple sold more than 1 million iPads in the device’s first month—to consumers in the United States and elsewhere.
In July 2009, following reports that workers were putting in more than the 60 hours per week permitted by Apple’s Code of Conduct, a 25-year-old Foxconn engineer died following a fall from his 12th-floor apartment. The incident occurred after the employee, Sun Danyong, appeared to have lost a fourth-generation iPhone prototype. Shortly before his fall, Danyong reportedly sent a text message to a friend, saying that Foxconn security had beaten and interrogated him.
According to the Associated Press, Danyong’s family was compensated with a lump sum of roughly $52,600, as well as $4,385 annually for the rest of their lives.
In 2006, Foxconn was the subject of an investigative report by a British newspaper, which interviewed iPod-making factory workers and likewise found the hours they worked to exceed what Apple has deemed acceptable by partner companies.
The series of deaths in 2010 has caused Foxconn to set up a suicide hotline and Employee Care Center, though Hon Hai, Foxconn’s parent company, “strongly defends” the treatment of its workers, according to The Wall Street Journal, which quotes a Hon Hai spokesperson as welcoming an examination of the incident and stating that the issue is a China-specific social problem and not a management problem.
“I believe we are definitely not a sweatshop,” the Journal quoted Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou as saying at an economic forum. “It is very difficult to manage a manufacturing team of more than 800,000 people. There are many things to do every day. But we are confident we will be able to stabilize the situation very soon.”
Apple is expected to introduce an iPhone 4G in June. According to a May 17 report in Digitimes, Foxconn will ship 4.5 million new iPhones in the first half of 2010, and 19.6 million units in the rest of the year. The report further estimated that Apple will sell 24 million iPhone 4G handsets in 2010.
On April 20, Apple announced second-quarter revenue of $13.50 billion, driven by sales of 2.94 million Macs and 8.75 million iPhones during the quarter.