Foxconn takes ‘immediate action’ after investigation exposes illegal student overtime

Business & Technology

On November 21, the Financial Times released the results (paywall) of an investigation into alleged illegal overtime during compulsory internships at Foxconn.

  • Six high school students, aged 17 to 19, said they were among a group of 3,000 who had compulsory internships at the manufacturer.
  • They said they were forced to work 11-hour shifts as the company sought to overcome production delays on the iPhone X.
  • Seasonal interns are a regular feature at the Foxconn factory, but the law prohibits interns from working more than 40 hours a week. Foxconn admitted that “the interns did work overtime in violation of our policy,” but insisted that “all work was voluntary,” contradicting the students who said they had no choice in the internship.

On November 22, FT reported (paywall) that Foxconn had taken “immediate action” to address the issue, but the paper noted that “the ending of student overtime is easier for the factory now the busy season, which usually runs from August to December with the launch of iPhone models, is almost over.”

In a separate piece, FT pointed out (paywall) some broader issues of China’s labor market reflected in the case.

  • China’s “local governments are under pressure to supply flexible labor to factories to stop employers relocating their facilities to other Asian countries.”
  • Electronics and textiles factories are especially abuse prone, and rely on large amounts of students from vocational schools to meet seasonal demand.
  • But many vocational schools have nothing to do with electronics and textiles, so the internships do not contribute to China’s human capital development. The students interviewed by FT in this investigation, for example, were from the Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School, and studying to be train attendants and railway managers.