I have trouble with the accusations aimed at Apple and one of its main manufacturers that together they are responsible for suicide deaths by employees. The issue is that Foxconn working conditions – where iPhones and iPads are assembled – are driving people to kill themselves. Accordingly this is another case of a fabulously successful company (insert Nike, GAP, Walmart… or in this case Apple) profiting from near-slave labour.
While Foxconn may not treat its people right, blaming it (and by association blaming Apple) for suicide deaths is actually quite unfair.
The average (per 100,000) suicide rate for China is 6.6 (incidentally it is 11.2 in Canada).
Thus, out of a workforce of 486,000 (and I’ve recently read that their labour pool is actually closer to 1-million… but for this example let’s stay with the lower number), Foxconn should expect 32 suicides a year, just because it has that many people working in China.
The fact that in the last year – apparently – they had only 27 suicides (or 14 in the past 17 months, according to other reports) means they managed to reduce the suicide rate by almost 20%. That’s hardly grounds for an accusation.
But those accusations have prompted silly responses – like Foxconn stringing nets to catch jumpers and forcing employees to sign I-will-not-commit-suicide contracts.
If there’s any blame to go around it shouldn’t be a cross only carried by Apple or Nike or one of the other companies responding to our endless demands for low cost no matter what it costs. Rather the guilt should be a burden for all of us who enjoy goods and services produced by miserably paid people working in lousy conditions. Years ago that used to be called slavery.