Foxconn, the largest electronics manufacturer in the world, has admitted to hiring underage interns as young as 14 years old.
According to an investigation by activist group China Labor Watch, several interns ranging in age from 14 to 16 were hired to work at Foxconn's facility in Yantai in northeastern China for several weeks over the summer, with some of the internships being arranged by the students' schools.
The minimum legal working age in China is 16, the Associated Press reported.
“Any Foxconn employee found, through our investigation, to be responsible for these violations will have their employment immediately terminated,” Foxconn said in an e-mail to Bloomberg Businessweek. “We recognize that full responsibility for these violations rests with our company and we have apologized to each of the students for our role in this action.”
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Foxconn reportedly failed to check the IDs of the students it employed. However, Duncan Innes-Ker, the regional editor for China at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told BBC News that regulating underage employment in China has been "a gray area" for several years now.
"The market for relatively unskilled labor in China has been tightening, and now there is even more incentive for companies to relax their standards, so they try and fill up their work spaces," Innes-Ker said. "Companies do have a responsibility to check with the people that they are hiring are above that age."
Foxconn has launched an investigation along with the schools involved to find out how the underaged workers ended up at Yantai. They did not say how many interns were working at the factory, but did confirm that the facility does not produce anything for Apple.
"We have found no evidence of similar violations in any of our other campuses in China, but we will not hesitate to take immediate action in any campus if any violations are discovered," Foxconn said, according to ComputerWorld.
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