Fast Company

Sixth Death at Foxconn, Is Apple's Success to Blame?

foxconn death

There's been another tragic suicide among Foxconn's workforce. That makes six Foxconn people who've killed themselves this year alone. Will Apple reconsider its links with the company?

The 24-year-old woman from Henan province, whose identity is unknown, threw herself out of her apartment building. She'd been with Foxconn just since August, and it seems that her motives either aren't yet known, or haven't been publicized. Covering the story, Shanghaiist notes that the defensive words of Foxconn spokesman Liu Kan don't really amount to much in the way of admitting culpability, or in fact any role in the apparent cluster of suicides whatsoever. "Do we really have preventions in place? Can we really touch 420,000 people's heart? As a business, we are not capable of doing this. And I don't know what reason will cause the eighth jump," Liu Kan said.

So what's going on here? Writing about the earlier suicides, I noted that there were in many cases mitigating circumstances--some to do with personal issues of the victims concerned, and some to do with a higher than expected suicide rate in China. And with such a huge workforce, there's also the fact that by sheer statistics you'll get some suicides. As with any such pattern, there's also the strong mathematical possibility that this cluster of similar events is just a random coincidence. And in this latest case, it seems unlikely that just nine months of work would lead to a situation where ending her life seemed the only viable option.

But this is mere supposition, and the other side of the equation is also worth pondering: Is there something nasty going on at Foxconn? Shanghaiist notes that one interviewee said "being yelled at is normal," and that middle management often put pressure on employees like this. We also know that Apple, one of the biggest-name contractors for Foxconn, is suffering from supply-chain problems for the iPad and can't get enough iPads in store quick enough to meet demand.

With rumors that Apple is cultivating Pegatron as a supplier for a possible Verizon iPhone, is the squeaky-clean Cupertino company looking to switch its manufacturers in the future?

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