A Reuters article today reports that China’s Foxconn, the largest manufacturer for consumer electronics, has admitted to illegally hiring underage interns. According to the report, the company was accused of hiring teenaged interns and using them on the assembly lines as a means of cutting manufacturing costs, and that Foxconn has, in fact, confessed to doing so.
Apparently the corporate higher-ups at Foxconn investigated the allegations, and came up with red flags at a plant in Yantai, in the northeastern Shandong province, noting that the plant had put laborers under the legal working age of 16 on the lines:
“Our investigation has shown that the interns in question, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, had worked in that campus for approximately three weeks.
“This is not only a violation of China’s labour law, it is also a violation of Foxconn policy and immediate steps have been taken to return the interns in question to their educational institutions. […]
However, we recognize that full responsibility for these violations rests with our company and we have apologized to each of the students for our role in this action.”
A post on Eurogamer elaborates on the story, citing initial reports that the underage interns were working on Nintendo’s Wii U console. However, those reports have yet to be confirmed or disconfirmed.
A Nintendo spokesperson issued a statement in response to IGN’s request for comment:
“Nintendo is in communication with Foxconn and is investigating the matter. We take our responsibilities as a global company very seriously and are committed to an ethical policy on sourcing, manufacture and labor. In order to ensure the continued fulfillment of our social responsibility throughout our supply chain, we established the Nintendo CSR Procurement Guidelines in July 2008. We require that all production partners, including Foxconn, comply with these Guidelines, which are based on relevant laws, international standards and guidelines. If we were to find that any of our production partners did not meet our guidelines, we would require them to modify their practices according to Nintendo’s policy. For more information about Nintendo’s Corporate Social Responsibility report, please visit http://www.nintendo.co.jp/csr/en/index.html.”
Regardless of whether the, Foxconn remains the largest manufacturer of the West’s best-selling products. Even though Nintendo’s Wii U has been implicated in this particular incident, nearly every major electronics company has their products manufactured by Foxconn: Sony, Microsoft, and, of course, Apple. And over the last few months, more and more stories have come out of Foxconn’s factory chain in China, from reports of strikes, riots, other labor law violations, and even threats of mass suicide over poor working conditions.