Reports out of China say that Apple manufacturer Foxconn is using two-month “internships” from nearby universities to help with a labor shortage ahead of the release of the new iPhone. Shanghai Daily and First Financial Daily reported on Thursday that hundreds of students are being driven to Foxconn’s factories.
First Financial Daily quoted a sophomore in the accounting department at a university in Huai’an, Jiangsu province who claims she arrived on campus at the beginning of September but was sent with other students to work at Foxconn instead of starting school. The program is meant to last two months.
The paper’s reporter checked with several universities in the area and found a number of students involved in the internship. However, some students did appear to have returned to their schools, possibly because of growing awareness about the program.
Students from Jiangsu’s Vocational and Technical College of Finance and Economics were reportedly scheduled for internships in three different groups this month. The first was scheduled for September 3rd, to be followed by groups on the 10th and the 20th. The first group is believed to have already returned as a result of some unspecified trouble. It remains uncertain if the second and third batch will be sent.
Students said in an interview they were required to sign a contract when they arrived at Foxconn. If students answered “no” to questions such as if the work was voluntary, or whether they accepted overtime, they were required to change the answers to “yes”.
More than 1,500 students were reportedly sent to Foxconn internships from vocational schools in the area in 2010.
Shanghai Daily quoted an alleged student with the username mengiuIQ84 on Sina Weibo as saying that she and 200 of her classmates from the Huaiyin Institute of Technology were taken to a Foxconn factory to work. She was to be paid $244 (RMB1,550) per month for her work, she will be expected to pay for her food and accommodations. Students from at least five other universities corroborated her claims, with some saying that they were working 12 hours a day, according to the report.
A report from China National Radio said that teachers told students the internships were a requirement for graduation, and would help them “experience working conditions and promote individual ability.”
“It’s hard for students to find jobs which are precisely related to their majors. Therefore, they are encouraged to go to factories to learn more about society,” an unnamed official said, acknowledging that the practice is a common one.
Foxconn came under scrutiny earlier this year when various reports of working conditions violations at its facilities surfaced. In February, Apple asked the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to check up on Foxconn.
Foxconn released the following statement about its internship program:
Foxconn has long had a short-term internship program that we carry out in cooperation with a number of vocational schools in China. Participants in the internship program, all of whom are of legal working age in China, represent an average of 2.7 percent of our workforce in China. The internship programs range in length from one to six months and students are free to leave the internship program at any time.
While we provide vocational schools with our qualification requirements, it is the schools that recruit the students under the supervision of the relevant local government and the schools also assign teachers to accompany and monitor the students throughout their internship program. In addition to allowing the students to gain relevant industry experience while earning the same industry-competitive compensation as our full-time entry-level workers, this program gives Foxconn an opportunity to identify participants in the internship program who have the potential to be excellent full-time employees should they wish to join our company upon graduation from their vocational school.
A recent audit of three of our facilities in China carried out by the Fair Labor Association confirmed that there was no evidence to indicate that any of the interns were pressured to participate in or to continue to participate in any internship program. A previous audit by the Fair Labor Association confirmed that students find their participation in this program valuable and that the positions offered by Foxconn were at compensation levels equivalent to entry-level full-time workers.