Following the recent attempted suicides of over 12 people working at Foxconn production plants, Nintendo is launching an official investigation.
Foxconn is a large Chinese electronics company that produce many component for popular computer motherboards. They produce components that are present is the Nintendo Wii and Sony’s Playstation 2, 3, the Microsoft Xbox 360 and various products created by Apple, such as the iPhone. They have recently been under scrutiny due to reports of very poor working conditions for their employees.
Wikipedia has a dedicated article relating to the Foxconn suicides. It has the following to say on the matter.
Between Jan 2010 to May 2010, twelve Foxconn employees attempted suicide, with ten deaths. Some reporters criticized long working hours with low pay and harsh management methods such as physical abuse towards mainland employees from Taiwanese managers. Some workers have complained about the monotonous work schedule and inhumane working relationships (such as one employee who had worked for half a year and yet did not know the names of his dormitory mates). Compared to China’s overall suicide rate, the suicide rate at Foxconn is not statistically aberrant but the rapid rate of the suicides is unusual.
As CEO of Hong Hai Precision Industry, Terry Gou responded to the situation on 25 May 2010. Because of a huge number of employees, management is difficult, he claimed, but they will improve the situation soon. Now Foxconn has formed specialized “employee care centers” and hired psychologists to offer counselling. However such a measure is doubted by the public. In addition it has been announced that employees will be asked to sign pledges that state they will not commit suicide and seek help if necessary. Some suggest that Foxconn should change its management systems, philosophy, and methods to create a more human orientated business atmosphere.
There is a lot of discussion regarding Nintendo’s investigation of the Foxconn suicides on vc-forums.
It is quite horrific to hear that those workers helping to create products we all use for entertainment are being so poorly treated. With all hope both Nintendo and Sony’s investigations will help to resolve these issues and improve working conditions at the Foxconn factories.