Workers at a massive Apple factory in China are killing themselves at an alarming rate. Eight employees have offed themselves since the beginning of the year. With 400,000 workers, Foxconn makes the iPhone and iPod, as well as devices for other electronics companies.
For those who believe the spate of suicides is statistically in line, given how many people work at Foxconn, consider this: the company says it has prevented a further 30 people from trying to kill themselves in the past three weeks alone. Clearly, something out of the ordinary is going on. What is happening in Shenzhen has the hallmarks of a “suicide cluster”, when the notion of suicide spreads rapidly through a group of people, often teenagers or young adults. Foxconn says it is at its wits’ end as to how to tackle the problem, and has even drafted in a Buddhist monk to try to purge its factories of evil spirits. Others have said the current generation of migrant workers, who have opted to move from other parts of China to seek their fortunes in the country’s coastal factories, are not as tough as their forbears. Usually better educated than their parents, they are prone to existential angst when confronted with seven-day weeks and 15-hour days of repetitive manufacturing. The nine Foxconn workers involved in suicide leaps this year were all aged under 25 and had worked for the company for less than six months.
The factory’s workers say they aren’t paid enough to purchase any of the items they manufacture.