Thousands of students from the Xi’an Institute of Technology have been participating in an internship programme, as it is officially called, at Foxconn. The students do not have much choice, however, as they are told that they will not receive six essential course credits if they do not complete this internship. which effectively means they will not be able to graduate. Moreover, the work that they are being given in no way matches their study programme or their competence levels. Foxconn meanwhile claims that the students working on the Sony PlayStation 4 are doing so on an entirely voluntary basis and that they are free to stop at any moment. It is not only in China that these human rights abuses occur; makeITfair has encountered similar forced labour with students in Thailand.

General opinion has it that companies putting students to work in their factories is not all bad. They are gaining work experience after all and that is a good thing, right? In practice, however, it often becomes clear that these are abusive labour constructions. In the case of the Sony PlayStation 4, manufactured in the Yantai factory of Foxconn in China, the situation doesn’t look pretty. It appears that Foxconn is using this method to solve its labour shortage problems in a cheap way. The educational institute is also playing a part in the story as it is actively promoting this internship to students. It remains unclear if the institute is receiving money for the role it plays.

To stop = no graduation

Students who participate in the Foxconn internship programme are given work that is in no way related to their field of study nor at the level of work expected from an internship. They may be studying Finance & Accounting, for example, and be put to work packing playstations, gluing together different parts of the games computer and applying stickers.

“What’s more, students have reported that their working hours and activities are exactly the same as those of the regular workforce, including overwork and night shifts. And the crux of the matter is the fact that they are not allowed to stop as this would prevent them from graduating,” says Irene Schipper, makeITfair researcher.

Human rights violations in Thailand too

Codes of Conduct for the electronics sector do not yet contain any specifications regarding student labour. makeITfair now is working on the incorporation of the prohibition of this form of forced labour into these codes. It is not only in China that these human rights abuses occur. At this moment makeITfair is doing research in the electronics industry in Thailand where comparable abuses are taking place. Research results are expected by early 2014.

Source: read the article by Games in Asia here [website no longer in use, red.] and the reaction from Foxconn and Sony here.