It seems that when it comes to Foxconn, good PR is hard to find. The tech giant (that manufactures devices like the iPhone, iPad, Kindle and the Xbox) has admitted that it employed underage interns in one of its factories in China.
In a statement (via The Next Web), Foxconn confirmed that children as young as 14 worked in its Yantai factory for three weeks as part of its internship programme. The legal working age in China is 16.
The company launched an investigation after media reports claimed that young interns were being forced to work in its factories due to a labour shortage ahead of the iPhone 5 launch. The company has previously denied the claims and it’s not clear which products are manufactured at this particular factory.
According to Foxconn:
Our investigation has shown that the interns in question, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, had worked in that campus for approximately three weeks. We have found no evidence of similar violations in any of our other campuses in China but we will not hesitate to take immediate action in any campus if any violations are discovered.
Foxconn said that it is still investigating the matter, and any staff found to be responsible for the fact that underaged interns worked illegally in its factory would be dismissed. China Labour Watch says that Foxconn did not check the identities of students who were sent to the factory by their schools.
If this is true, then this could make waves with the Chinese government as well as clients, even if their devices were not made in this particular factory. Sony’s supplier code of conduct prohibits underage labour, and Apple has previously said that it requires all its suppliers to check the ages of workers, even when they are supplied by third-party recruiters like schools. In its code of conduct, Apple says:
We also require suppliers to maintain robust documentation and age verification procedures, personnel records, and systems for communicating labor policies across their facilities and with third-party recruiters. And we hold our suppliers accountable for agencies and schools providing workers to them.
According to Foxconn, the interns received an apology and were returned to their educational institutions. The company said that it would work with the schools and local government in future to ensure no underage children were permitted to participate in its internship programme.