Foxconn, one of Apple’s largest manufacturing partners, has allegedly employed school-aged students to work illegally long hours in its China-based factories, according to a report in the Financial Times.
The Taiwanese electronics company, which operates a large number of factories throughout the People’s Republic of China and other countries, has long attracted criticism for its hiring, labour and compensation practices.
The students, who were aged between 17 and 19 years, were reportedly told that they needed to work on the company’s Zhengzhou-based plant in order to graduate. Around 3,000 students were hired in total.
Many of the students were required to work 11 hour days at the factory, potentially in addition to a standard school workload. The hiring practices violated Chinese labour laws, which prohibit school-aged employees from working for upwards of 40 hours per week.
Apple and Foxconn have publicly stated that the employees were “compensated and provided benefits” for their work, but agreed that the students — who worked voluntarily in the factory — “should not have been allowed to work overtime.”
Foxconn operates a large range of internship programmes in China. While the internship itself is legal under Chinese law, students are forbidden from working overtime hours and capped at 40 hours of voluntary employment each week.
The manufacturing company has stated that the internship represents “a very small percentage” of its total workforce in the country. Foxconn has previously been criticised for its employee care practices after the company was accused of “failing to protect Chinese factory workers.”
Students hired by Foxconn as part of the internship programme were tasked with assembling the iPhone X — Apple’s latest smartphone and one of its key sources of revenue. One student claimed that they assembled as many as 1,200 iPhone X cameras per day at the factory.
The iPhone is an extremely important product for Apple, contributing more than half of the US technology giant’s revenue. Apple’s share price hit record highs after the launch of the newest iPhone, which is estimated to have sold 46.6 million units between July and September.
The company’s most expensive smartphone, the iPhone X costs as much as $1,149 USD (£999 GBP) and provides users with a high-resolution touchscreen that occupies the entire front of the device.
Apple has reported extremely high sales numbers for the latest iPhone, with the level of demand exceeding expectations. As tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo explained, the phone could be subject to supply constraints that limit Apple’s ability to meet demand in 2017.
Working conditions have long been a difficult aspect of manufacturing in China for consumer electronics companies. Foxconn has faced several public working conditions issues, many of which have resulted in the manufacturing giant taking steps to improve its hiring practices.
Foxconn is one of Asia’s largest consumer electronics manufacturing companies. In addition to its well known manufacturing contracts with Apple, the company also assembles products for a variety of other consumer technology brands, including Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft.