Hey Alexa, were you made by Chinese schoolchildren?
A new report from the Guardian alleges that children were working overtime and night shifts at Amazon supplier Foxconn to produce smart speakers for Amazon, even though children are not allowed to work either overnight or overtime under Chinese labor laws.
The news comes via interviews and leaked documents acquired by the Guardian showing that a Foxconn facility in the southern Chinese city of Hengyang had hired hundreds of schoolchildren who were working as “interns” to help Foxconn produce Amazon’s smart speakers and devices. According to the report, these weren’t grade school kids using their tiny fingers to connect wires, but teenagers, aged from 16 to 18, working overtime and night shifts to reach manufacturing quotas for Amazon’s Echo, Echo Dot, and Kindle products. Lest you think this is great real-world work experience for kids who wanted to pad their résumés, teachers were reportedly paid to accompany children to work and asked to encourage “uncooperative” students to take on regular shifts as well as tack on overtime ones as well. Some of the pupils have been required to work for more than two months to supplement staffing levels at the factory during peak production periods, researchers found.
While under Chinese labor laws, factories are allowed to employ students aged 16 and older, students are not allowed to work nights or overtime, and this Foxconn factory was reportedly violating that rule. More than 1,000 schoolchildren are reportedly employed by the factory. Foxconn, which also makes iPhones for Apple, admitted that students had been employed illegally and said it was taking immediate action to fix the situation.
When reached for comment, an Amazon spokesperson sent this statement:
“We do not tolerate violations of our Supplier Code of Conduct. We regularly assess suppliers, using independent auditors as appropriate, to monitor continued compliance and improvement–if we find violations, we take appropriate steps, including requesting immediate corrective action. We are urgently investigating these allegations and addressing this with Foxconn at the most senior level. Additional teams of specialists arrived on-site this week to investigate, and we’ve initiated weekly audits of this issue.”