Latest Foxconn suicide brings utterly predictable media coverage

“Another worker has committed suicide at the south China manufacturing complex of iPhone maker Foxconn International Holdings Ltd, state media reported on Friday, the latest in a string of employees who have leapt to their deaths this year,” James Pomfret, Huang Yan and Kelvin Soh report for Reuters

“The employee ‘fell to death’ early on Friday at one of Foxconn’s manufacturing facilities in the southern Chinese manufacturing hub of Shenzhen, Xinhua News Agency reported,” Pomfret, Yan and Soh report. “‘The death was confirmed by the municipal government. No further information was immediately available,’ Xinhua said. Labour rights groups say there have been at least 13 suicides at Foxconn factories across China this year, not including Friday’s fatality.”

“The incident comes months after several Foxconn workers, mostly in Shenzhen, died after jumping from buildings in the company’s plants earlier this year,” Pomfret, Yan and Soh report. “The deaths threw an awkward spotlight on the labor practices of Foxconn, a unit of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, whose clients include Apple Inc…”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Every suicide is tragic. That said, China’s national suicide rate per 100,000 people is 6.6 per year. As of August this year, Foxconn had 920,000 employees and is on the way to increasing headcount to 1.3 million by next August.

The real story is that the suicide rate among Foxconn workers is dramatically lower than China’s overall suicide rate. Of course, that wouldn’t generate quite the number of page views for the hit-whores.

Note to the media: There are other things you can twist in order to fulfill your mission of trying to make Apple look bad. You vultures don’t have to stoop to exploiting suicide victims.

22 Comments

  1. @MDN, I agree with your take on this. Sad as it is, the Media will use ANY sad story to get higher head counts, “clicks”. They never seem to think of the families involved.

    If it weren’t for local laws about children, they would be exploiting those persons as well. There used to be a time where responsible reporting was done. Reporters had to do the R&D of a story and come clean with all the facts. They Omit the facts to get more clicks.

    Very sad indeed!

  2. Not to burst your bubble, but I believe that you statement of comparing the countries suicide rate to Foxconn workers is a little flawed. I live in the USA, and the highest rate for suicide are adolescents and the elderly. Middle-aged working men usually don’t jump off buildings. I know there may be some cultural differences, but I still believe there will be a correlation in the suicide rates in ages between USA and China. I am no expect, just my thoughts. Please don’t violently attack my post if I’m wrong.

  3. @KSH

    China isn’t the USA. As sad as it is, middle aged men DO jump off buildings and commit suicide there. When I spent a year over there, I heard about it quite often. (Not trying to “violently attack” your post, just saying my bit.)

  4. Foxconn employees are not middle aged men; at least not the jumpers. The ages of the suicide victims at Foxconn generally range from 18-25. At Foxconn, it’s mostly the young, who are often far from home, who succumb.

  5. Note to the media: There are other things you can twist in order to fulfill your mission of trying to make Apple look bad. You vultures don’t have to stoop to exploiting suicide victims.

    First off, Apple isn’t a ‘little engine that could if given a chance’ company that needs defending anymore.

    Apple is a HUGE FRIGGING CORPORATION with enormous leverage to invoke positive change for human and workers rights in the semi-communist China.

    It’s by the concerned media prodding Apple to use that leverage is why they report those stories, and so far it has worked as Foxconn has been trying to address the issue.

    If you don’t already know, the value of human life is rather cheap in China due to the overwhelming population.

    Apple has proven that they a mature corporation and they are masters of influence. Apple also knows it’s customers wouldn’t care less if 10,000 people a day died in Foxconn factories as long as they go their new little iGadget.

    Am I right or what? You know I am.

  6. @KenC
    I have to agree with you, having lost face in chinese society is considered a valid reason for self destruction. Spent four years in Formosa on embassy duty while I was in the AirForce. Unlike the rest of the world the Chinese don’t have a problem with this and in some cases it is the expected reaction to social problems.

  7. @j-osx, sure in Gansu province, if you cause trouble at the factory, management throws you off abridge into the river. There are dozens of bodies collected downstream by body fishermen. Sadly, they have turned it into a lucrative business. Selling the bodies to relatives. You even have to pay just to see if you can ID a body.

    Look it up, it’s on the web.

  8. @ KSH: while at first glance the suicides seem to tell a horrible story, at second glance they tell a wonderful story (lower suicide rate, a la MDN’s take).

    But on further review, their take is still not looking at the entire picture, as you pointed out. To do this properly, one would need to verify the amount of people of the same age an demographic who suicide nationally annually. So: age, income, amount of work, etc etc.

  9. While I agree with MDN’s Take, I find it ironic that they themselves need to post this, as they are benefiting from the hits just like any other media outlet. Maybe, in the future, if they are truly convicted to what they state in their Take, they will just move onto other stories.

  10. If the article linked to by MDN actually tried to put down Apple, as MDN claims, that may be different. But that’s not the case. Just read the article. Apple is mentioned equally alongside HP and Sony Ericsson.

  11. “The real story is that the suicide rate among Foxconn workers is dramatically lower than China’s overall suicide rate. Of course, that wouldn’t generate quite the number of page views for the hit-whores.”

    As many have pointed out before, it would be useful to compare the Foxconn suicide rate to that in similar industries in China. I do not believe the overall suicide rate in China is the best comparison. However, I do agree that this is a case where the media are playing to a certain theme. Not necessarily a fault of journalists specifically, since this is how we think – once a trend is identified, we look for cues that this is occurring again, essentially assuming causality, then waiting for “proof”. Of course, this is very useful when the trend is regarding a threat that might kill you – better to avoid all potential threats than worry about which ones are real. It is simply misleading when examining trends in current events.

    Curious that all the suicides are by the same means. Not sure I would read anything into that since it might be due to any number of factors.

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