French journalist and photographer Jordan Pouille revisited a Foxconn factory in Longhua, China and reported on factory conditions in the wake of a highly publicized pay raise for its Chinese workers. This pay raise came in response to criticism over a rash of suicides occurring at this Longhua factory which employs over 300,000 Chinese workers. Foxconn is the world's largest electronics manufacturer and has contracts with several major consumer electronics companies including Apple. The iPhone, iPod touch and iPad pass through the production lines of this manufacturing giant. Unfortunately, the picture of Foxconn painted by Pouille is a stark and often disturbing one.
He tells the tale of young Chinese workers, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, who moved here from poor farming communities in rural China. They endure 13 hour shifts with a minimal number of breaks (10 minutes every 2 hours) and work six days a week, though seven is not uncommon when demand is at a peak. The youths live in dormitory-style rooms on the Foxconn campus that house up to eight or nine people from different hometowns, with different work shifts and different jobs within the factory -- a living situation which does not foster personal relationships among the workers. When arriving at the gate leading into the factory, the workers must relinquish their mobile phones to guards and enter a workplace that is rife with military-style managers who do not allow the workers to smile, speak, listen to music, or even sit down. The focus is on productivity with some workers boasting of assembling 3,000 iPhones each day.
Pouille provides no answers for what he considers to be dehumanizing conditions present in Chinese manufacturing facilities; he merely brings them to life with stories from the workers themselves and from images of the youth as they head to work and engage in brief times of after-hours play. His essay is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes look at factory life in China's Foxconn city.