“One newspaper has called the recent suicides at the electronics company Foxconn an epidemic. Another newspaper reports that Foxconn is experiencing a ‘spate of suicides.’ Unfortunately, this is an instance of media hysteria and disregard for statistical facts which may have real world negative consequences,” Patrick Mattimore reports for People’s Daily Online.
“Taiwanese-owned Foxconn has had seven suicides this year,” Mattimore reports. “That sounds like a lot, but the firm has an estimated 800,000 workers, more than 300,000 of them at a single plant in Shenzhen.”
Mattimore reports, “Although exact figures are hard to come by, even the most conservative estimate for China’s suicide rate is 14 per 100,000 per year (World Health Organization). In other words, Foxconn’s suicide epidemic is actually lower than China’s national average of suicides.”
“If the only upshot of these stories was heightened attention to workplace issues, such as improving workers’ conditions, then the stories would not be troubling. The problem is that people are fired and the stories become political ammunition for various groups,” Mattimore writes. “Another problem is that responsible businesses like Foxconn often take benevolent, but misguided actions to try and ‘solve’ their problem… Another troubling facet of misleading the public with the Foxconn suicide story is that there is a very real desire to scapegoat Foxconn. That tendency is understandable because it is human nature to want to shift the blame for the act of suicide to someone other than the perpetrator. However, that shift should not be mistaken for reasonably reading the situation.”
“The larger problem stems from the fact that most journalists have not been taught to critically examine statistics. They follow the herd which often means that they report numbers without providing readers a context for making sense of those numbers,” Mattimore writes. “Reporters often write stories with statistics that are incomplete, misleading, or just plain wrong. Hopefully, the public will wake up to the fact that there is nothing wrong at Foxconn and demand that newspapers act more responsibly and begin supplying some context when they decide to instigate their next corporate suicide watch.”
Full article – highly recommended – here.
[Attribution: ZDNet. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “jax44” for the heads up.]