• 10th Worker Kills Self at iPad Factory

    Another worker at the sprawling Shenzhen factory of iPad manufacturer Foxconn has committed suicide, Cult of Mac reports, bringing the sad total for this year to ten. Foxconn, which also manufactures iPhones, iPod and iMacs, not to mention Sony Ericsson and other phones, has come under increasing fire for what labor activists call inhumane conditions at the factory. The association with Foxconn has been a public relations concern for Apple, which had previously reacted with dismay when an employee committed suicide after an iPhone prototype went missing.

    At 6.20 am last Tuesday, according to the Christian Science Monitor, Li Hai, 19, jumped off the roof of a building at Foxconn's complex in Longhua, north of the city of Shenzhen in southern China. His death, reported today in the official Xinhua news service marks the tenth Foxconn employee suicide this year. Two more workers had also tried to kill themselves but survived. The company demands that employees work long hours for little pay: the Monitor article notes that the starting pay is 900 RMB ($130 US) and that workers must put in 30 hours of overtime in order to get to just 2,000 RMB ($295 US).

    Some commentators urge that the numbers be put in perspective, since the rate of pay is not unusual by Chinese standards, and that Foxconn offers better working conditions than many other manufacturers. Also, the Monitor quotes Michael Phillips, the head of the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center estimates that the national suicide rate in the People's Republic is about 15 per 100,000, so 10 suicides at Foxconn's 400,000-worker plant is not abnormally high (the US rate is 11 per 100,000).

    There will be repercussions for Apple, which will likely release an expression of concern similar to that following the suicide of a Foxconn worker who was suspected of stealing a prototype iPhone last year. At the time, an Apple spokesperson said “we require that our suppliers treat all workers with dignity and respect,” so likely there will be more statements and little change. But while it would be easy to blame Apple for trying to cut its costs to the bone, do Western consumers really want to pay more for iPhones and iPads? If there is any blame in this tragedy, there is a lot of it to go around.

    image via France 24
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