A typical case is that of Foxconn. Since March, five workers have tried to take their own life in the Taiwanese company’s Shenzhen factory; no less than 12 workers have died of unnatural causes in the past two years. In early April, one migrant worker committed suicide and another one failed his bid to end his life.
Foxconn, a leading supplier for Apple, Nokia and Sony, has been under the spotlight since July 2009 when Sun Danyong, a 25-year-old employee, leapt to his death after management accused him of stealing an iPhone prototype. The problem has become so severe that the company has been dubbed the “suicide express”.
However, the electronics firm is not alone. Its main rival Huawei, whose headquarters are close to Foxconn in Shenzhen, was also hit by a suicide scandal between 2006 and 2008, when Chinese media reported six mysterious deaths over the previous two years. Reports at the time emphasized the work pressures faced by employees, including excessively long hours.
For the CLB, whilst workplace pressures and heavy workloads are important factors, young workers also face pressures from their families, co-workers and friends, which can affect their psychological and physical health.
Companies tend to higher young workers because of their greater physical resistance; however, they also tend to be less stable psychologically. Often forced to live ten to a room in company dorms near the plant, employees are usually far from their family and without any support.
Violence is not unheard in such dormitories, including sexual abuse, and thefts. Many workers prefer to live outside the factory, sharing an apartment with friends, rather than endure the pressures of dormitory life.
Foxconn announced that following the rash of suicides at its plants, it is now providing counselling for its more than 300,000 employees in China.