Thursday, March 22, 2012

Foxxcon: Another Look

I have not been following this story too closely but I am aware that Public radio's This American Life episode about abuses at the Foxconn factories that make Apple products has been retracted on the grounds of the "significant fabrications" it apparently contained.

The problem is a lack of context.
A couple of things that I found interesting about the this story is that "the number of deaths and suicides that have been reported in Foxconn’s factories indicate rates that may be lower than at other places in China—and in the U.S." The salaries are also substantially higher on average for workers at Foxconn than other opportunities in China.

On the 30th of January, thousands of hopefuls stood for hours outside a labor agency located in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, the largest city of Henan province in north-central China.

In addition, Tim Culpan, who's covered Foxconn factories extensively, writes 
"The biggest gripe, which surprised us somewhat, is that they don’t get enough overtime. They wanted to work more, to get more money." (emphasis mine)

"There are also things happening at Foxconn that just aren’t sexy to talk about: the cheap accommodation and subsidized food for workers, the Foxconn-run health centers right on campus, the salary that’s well above the government minimum and other companies, the continuous stream of young workers who still want to work there.

In reality, Foxconn is actually raising the bar for working conditions and worker salaries in China. Almost all the people in China were far worse off prior to China opening up free trade. Since these companies opened up factories, it has since helped raised the living standards for the workers significantly. Improving a regions average standard of living doesn't happen overnight. While they have lower living standards relative to our own in the US, their absolute level has risen dramatically over the years. 
(H/T Matt Yglesias)

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