Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturing company famous for building Apple products such as the iPhone 5, today admitted that some of the workers at its facilities were under China's minimum working age of 16.
The company told CNET in an email statement that it had performed an internal investigation and found some workers at its Yantai facility in Shandong Province were ages 14 to 16. From the CNET report:
"This is not only a violation of China's labor law, it is also a violation of Foxconn policy and immediate steps have been taken to return the interns in question to their educational institutions," the company said in an e-mailed statement to CNET. "We are also carrying out a full investigation, in cooperation with the respective educational institutions, to determine how this happened and the actions that must be taken by our company to ensure that it can never happen again."
This admission was a reaction to a China Labor Watch report released this week showing that it had found "a small number of student interns employed in the summer were between 14 ro 16 years old." China Labor Watch claims that though the interns were sent by schools, Foxconn did not check their IDs.
Foxconn's admission highlights the fact that the company is not actively seeking to recruit children to work in its factories. The economic conditions in China's rural areas are such that underage workers are actively seeking employment before they are allowed to work. Schools, such as the ones mentioned, often smuggle in underage workers using false identification. The real issue is whether Foxconn is being diligent enough in turning away underage workers.
As the manufacturer behind the largest company in history, Foxconn is under increased scrutiny from labor organizations. In the past the company has dealt with a multitude of suicides at its facilities. More recently, riots and strikes by production workers have lead the headlines for Foxconn.