by John Moe // Posted: 08/18/10 05:48 PM
Today is one of those days I just have to go home having not understood the world.
That happens a lot when it comes to Foxconn. Allow me some bullet points:
* World’s largest manufacturer.
* Hundreds of thousands of employees, evidently around 920,000.
* Almost all the factory workers are young men and women from rural areas who come to live in factory dorms and work long hours.
* Those long hours are spent building electronics YOU OWN. Phones, computers, gaming stuff, iPads, Kindles, you name it.
* They’ve had a rash of suicides, mostly involving young people jumping from the roofs of the dormitories.
* They put up nets at some of the dorms, someone jumped anyway, died anyway.
* The company started handing out huge raises to workers but also announced plans to pull out of cities where those raises were necessary to retain workers. Instead, the company is moving a lot of operations to rural areas where those workers are from and where they can pay lower wages.
* This week they held a rally to improve worker morale and to sort of, I guess, campaign against suicide…? And at that rally, some guys were dressed as Spiderman and THE INTERNET WON’T TELL ME WHY.
* I can’t even show you the Spiderman costumes due to rights issues. So go see them here. Then come back and explain why these dudes were dressed as Spiderman.
Posted: 07/23/10 09:35 AM
If you don’t own a smart phone now, you probably will soon.
Here’s the picture from Wall Street: Nokia, which pretty much makes regular old cell phones, announced a 40 percent drop in revenues Thursday. On the same day, AT&T said they had a huge quarter with lots of new customers for the iPhone activated 3.2 million new iPhones last quarter. Meanwhile, research firm Strategy Analytics says smart phone shipments are up 43 percent worldwide.
Americans are ditching cell phones in favor of devices that can make calls AND check email AND update Facebook AND stream video AND you get the idea. In the process, we’re flooding the data networks these smart phones rely on. It’s lots of fun now, but is it sustainable? Can the networks do what we’re asking of them?
Also in this program, Foxconn says it will raise prices for the technology companies it works with. Foxconn builds popular products for Apple, HP, Dell, and others. We’ve been watching the situation with Foxconn for a while. Here are some links to past coverage:
Suicides in China (May 21)
More suicides at Foxconn (May 28)
by John Moe // Posted: 07/12/10 02:19 PM
The Chinese electronics manufacturer has been in the news a lot in recent: a rash of worker suicides, a wage increase to attract workers in a time when China’s economy is starting to boom, a plan to outsource operations of its worker dormitories to make them more pleasant places to live. All things that would indicate rough sledding at Foxconn. But the money keeps rolling in: $6.15 billion in June, up 21% from the previous month, 55% from the previous year. It’s really a story about global economy when you think about it: in a time of slow economic recovery, people buy gadgets.
by John Moe // Posted: 06/25/10 12:52 PM
This NYT article puts the number of workers in Shenzhen at 420,000, the highest number I’ve heard so far.
The company said Friday that it had decided to give up its “college campus style” dormitory system in Shenzhen in the hopes that outside management companies could better integrate its workers into the local community and relieve some of the pressures of factory life.
“Providing employees with basic necessities including a safe and convenient place to live at the work site might have been sufficient in the past,” Terry Cheng, an executive vice president, said in a statement Friday. “But this arrangement no longer satisfies the needs of the young migrant workers of today.”
The decision is a sharp turnabout for Foxconn, which about five years ago opened a huge campus in Shenzhen with high-rise dormitories, restaurants, banks and recreational facilities.
Foxconn had a number of suicides among workers in recent months, mostly by young workers jumping from the high rise dormitories.
by John Moe // Posted: 06/15/10 11:06 AM
This according to China Daily. Those that stay behind to work on iPhones (presumably the iPhone 4 for the most part although 3GS production will continue) will be paid higher wages. Other products will be made at other Foxconn facilities in outlying areas of China where the workers will be paid unspecified, presumably lower, wages. Foxconn has been announcing higher wages for a while, making one wonder how they would pay for hikes of 20, 30, sometimes 60 percent and still stay in business while keeping costs low enough to keep their contracts with American manufacturers. It makes you wonder about what kind of volume they’re expecting from iPhone sales and how central that one device is to their operation and, by extension, the future of consumer electronics. The Shenzhen plant is, of course, where a rash of suicides hit in recent months although you don’t tend to hear about as many there anymore.
by John Moe // Posted: 06/09/10 11:08 AM
For a while now we’ve been hearing about increased wages for Foxconn employees, in some cases raises of up to 66%. Around here we’ve been wondering how, in an every penny counts environment like consumer electronics manufacturing, they could afford to make anything like that happen. Now we’re starting to see the other shoe drop a little bit as Foxconn announced at a shareholders meeting that they won’t be compensating the families of employees who commit suicide. It was no small amount of money they were paying out, either: ten years’ salary.
They also announced that they will be moving some manufacturing to Taiwan and Vietnam to save some money. Interestingly, Foxconn is officially a Taiwan company operating in China so within these massive city-like manufacturing plant it’s not always clear which country’s laws are applicable.
by John Moe // Posted: 06/07/10 12:20 PM
WWDC - all eyes on Apple as Jobs delivers a big speech and rolls out new ways to take your money.
Foxconn gives raises again
If you can’t beat ‘em, integrate ‘em, says Yahoo, which hearts Facebook
The iPad Magazine – what’s going on?
HP printers to have their own emails - cute!
U.S. intelligence analyst behind Wikileaks helicopter attack video arrested
Messages from WWII to be digitized
Our brains on the Internet
by John Moe // Posted: 06/07/10 11:06 AM
Couple of weeks ago, every day brought news of another suicide at the massive Chinese manufacturing facility. Now every day brings news of another raise for workers there. Latest news, according to Gizmodo, is that workers are getting a whopping 66% raise. But not so fast! It’s performance based and workers must pass a three month review to receive the big raise. So it’s unclear if this is just PR or an actual possibility. The 30% raise seems to be in effect across the board. Given the penny pinching of Chinese factories, one really has to wonder what this does to the manufacturing industry in China and the consumer electronics market here.
By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 05/31/10 09:28 AM
We’ve been following the story of the Foxconn suicides closely. Someone passed along this link to us about how the media is misrepresenting the figures. The story mentions the suicide rate in China, and suggests that the Foxconn suicides are not out of proportion.
In our report over a week ago, Alexandra Harney said that while the working conditions are very difficult, people line up every morning at dawn to get a job there.
There are a lot of numbers that are hard to get nailed down - the number of employees at Foxconn in addition to the number of suicides, the number of suicide attempts. It’s important to keep these suicides in perspective. One of the guests on our show helps do that. Dr. Eric Caine worked on suicide prevention in China. He China is the only country in the world in which women commit more suicide than men. He also says that suicides happen more often in rural areas, as opposed to urban areas. They also often are the result of women consuming agricultural pesticide.
From all the people we talked with, it’s clear that having a number of suicides in a row, this close in proximity, this close in time, with such similarity (jumping off their dormitory roofs, is worth examining. Dr. Caine said the Foxconn suicides have all the earmarks of cluster suicide, in which case the way to stem the rash of suicides is to confront the issue head on.
09/26/10 11:15 AM
There’s a vote coming up this week in Washington that will have a big impact on how you use the internet, what’s available to you, how much faster you’ll be able to get things online. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to open up unused parts of the broadcast spectrum, a lot of people call it “white space”. This is space that was positioned to be something of a buffer between television stations but such padding is proving less essential since the conversion to digital TV.
On today’s show, we talk to Glenn Fleishman from Wi-Fi Networking News and The Economist about how the spectrum works and what kind of new space we’re talking about. We also check in with Tim Wu from Columbia Law School about the companies that will look to use the space and what it all might mean for you and me as internet consumers.
- Can social networks help prevent the flu?
09/20/10 02:43 AM
- The Wikipedia entry on the Iraq War in 12 handy bound volumes
09/17/10 01:02 AM
- Free public domain classical music on the way
09/16/10 06:00 AM
- Microsoft and political repression in Russia
09/15/10 06:00 AM