Why Foxconn is not really experiencing a ‘Suicide Cluster’ and Apple isn’t to blame

“There were reports yesterday that a Foxconn employee in the Chinese city of Shenzhen has committed suicide,” Paul Kedrosky reports for Seeking Alpha. “It means that the woman, 24, is the sixth Foxconn employee to commit suicide this year (and there are three more employees who unsuccessfully attempted suicide). Perhaps best known is that a male Foxconn employee, 25 years old, killed himself after being asked questions about a missing iPhone prototype.”

“And that’s why this sad story gets so much attention. To some, the connection to Apple’s secretive ways is easy to make,” Kedrosky reports. “After all, would it be any surprise if working with one of the most militantly guarded companies on the planet led some Foxconn employees to destructive levels of pressure and strain, even to the point of suicide? The narrative fits together so neatly.”

“Or does it? …The rate of suicide in China is, according to the WHO, 13.0 per 100,000 for men, and 14.8 per 100,000 for women (China is one of the few countries where the female suicide rate exceeds the male one),” Kedrosky reports. “Given 300,000 employees at Foxconn’s massive Shenzhen facility, we should, therefore, expect somewhere between 39 and 43 suicides a year…”

Full article here.

44 Comments

  1. Actually, Foxconn is probably the most desirable line job in China. You should see how other companies treat their workers. There’s a PBS World program Global Voices, with an episode called China Blue, that is playing on May 23rd at 9am. It shows a denim factory in China and how the workers are treated. Pretty darn inhumane. Check your local listings. Foxconn is a resort compared to places like that.

  2. Oh, and thanks to Paul Kedrosky for doing the math, as when these inflammatory stories first hit, I pointed out that none of the stories had published the baseline suicide rate so we don’t know whether this is out of the norm. When you have over 200,000 employees on campus, you are going to have all the sorts of social ills that you’d expect.

    A little town near me, Winthrop, Maine, has 6 suicides in an 18 month span, all of them were connected by highschool football. Winthrop has less than 6000 residents. Now, that’s a real suicide cluster, serious enough, it was written up in Sports Illustrated.

  3. Stress. Working in secret. Working against the people that gave you the job. … So, what is the political suicide rate in Congress and the Senate? I hear it is spiking this year. It may ease off after November.

    I do hope that people that make honest mistakes in revealing Apple’s secrets go easier on themselves. And I hope that Steve Jobs starts to realize that when you make 1 or 2 million of something to be sold at hundreds of locations on the same first day, someone is going to see or say something.

  4. it would be nice to put all the idiot reporters who froth and thrive at baseless gossip like this and true fact under some suicidal stress and pressure.

    Then we can blame Apple for the demise of the “so called” free press ?

    Brian Lam, Jason Chen, start the drill…

  5. “The rate of suicide in China is, according to the WHO…”

    I was unaware that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey were doing demographic analysis. I guess after the Super Bowl, a need for a new career became obvious.

  6. This is a mean spirited article.

    Unfortunately, I fear that the tough working conditions and possible meager wages at Foxconn is contributing to an increase in tragedy. Very sad. Its too bad that we need to rely on foreign workers, working for meager pay under tough conditions, in order to manufacture luxury brands. Very sad. This needs further investigation and I ask Apple to begin production in the USA. I will gladly pay more for an Apple product where I know that the workforce manufacturing it is protected by fair labor laws, etc. Very sad. I hope Apple will take steps to untangle its necessity of working with foreign companies paying low wages to their staff. Its not worth a lower price for an iPod or iPad or iPhone if it means even 1 life will be lost. Perspective.

  7. @ ploogman,

    Foxconn pays very high wages for China and the working conditions are the best around. Apple inspects all of the factories where their products are made. The suicide rate at Foxconn is way below the national average. Apple is saving lives in China not taking them.

    If American labor hadn’t priced themselves out of work, Apple would be making more products domestically.

    Your post was very mean spirited.

  8. The next American challenge, AI. If we create AI and use it with robotic automation, we will not need overseas cheep labor. A visionary president would strive for it the way Kennedy challenged America to be the first to land on the moon in the 60’s.

    However, this one wants to dismantle our technology and NASA. However, he does like his unions!

    Clueless idiot.

  9. @ Big Als MBP

    Why are you singling me out?

    Oh, so you also live in China and you also know Foxconn workers? Maybe we know some of the same people? 你可能不会说中文

    Seriously, why don’t you come over here and visit and see for yourself before making your Big comments Al.

    Not sure why you think you are an expert or why you would act like that. Your assessment is 100% wrong and obnoxious. Let’s get you on a cot overnight on the production floor and then all day you can work your fingers to the bone for pennies that you can spend in the company cafeteria.

    Boy, some people will say anything to support Apple. I love Apple too but this is a problem and manufacturing here is a problem. Not to mention lack of good health care and pollution control. Foxconn is also a major pollutant and is not an example to follow.

    Sorry, facts are facts. Mac still rules but manufacturing of Macs and PCs are both bad state of affairs. Sad that we live in a world where people are taken advantage of. Especially sad when it is for a luxury brand. Perspective.

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