Just weeks before Apple officially announces its next-generation iPhone 4G, the Foxconn factory in China, which produces the iPhone and iPad, has come under fire for a wave of worker suicides. At least 10 Foxconn employees have killed themselves so far this year, and many more have tried. Looking for insights into the phenomenon, Der Spiegel's Wieland Wagner goes inside the massive, mall-like Foxconn complex, where 300,000 employees live according to strict, Orwellian rules, work 12-hour shifts and sleep in crowded dormitory conditions. Here, an excerpt:
"The series of apparent or attempted suicides has shaken the management of China's largest electronics manufacturer. Liu Kun, 40, who calls himself the director of media relations, goes around in a sweat-soaked shirt. He avoids the word 'factory,' preferring the word 'campus' — as if Foxconn were a university. In a battery-driven golf cart...Liu shows a visitor around the palm-lined streets. They want to prove how good the workers have it.
"Liu points proudly at all the shops. Fast-food chains have franchises here; the Foxconn village has a factory hospital, where workers can walk in for treatment; there's a football stadium, a fitness center, a number of Internet cafés, a rehearsal room for the corporate dance troupe and a kind of academy. Television monitors installed along the streets — or in the cafeterias — play a corporate TV channel.
"These opportunities for diversion don't change the fact that Foxconn workers have to spend their lives almost entirely on the complex. One cargo truck after another delivers components and carries away finished products. There are no warehouses at Foxconn. Once workers assemble a mobile phone or a laptop, the device goes straight to customers. This flow of products can't slow down. On Foxconn streets, workers are allowed to walk alongside each other only in pairs. If there are three of them, they must form a line."