12+ suicide attempts with 10 deaths in 2010… the suicide mania at China’s Foxconn manufacturing plants has caused uproar across the region.
Foxconn, a Taiwanese registered corporation, is the world’s largest manufacturer of electronics and computer components. Among their main products are Apple’s iPhone, iPod etc., and also components for Intel, Nintendo and other big brands. Their main plant in Shenzhen, China, employs about 400,000 workers.
The suicide trend came to light in early May following the fifth fatality of the year. Most of the deceased attempted suicide by jumping from their (company provided) dormitory in Shenzhen. Ironically the suicides intensified after the news was widely reported, with five more deaths in just a matter of weeks.
Statistically there’s about 16 suicides in every 100,000 mainland Chinese, so the situation at Foxconn is not out of hand. There’s also the copycat suicide factor – which is probably proven by the intensity of suicide incidents in May alone – that needs to be taken into consideration.
There’s a few criticism that the company treated the workers ‘inhumanly’, including barring the workers from communicating during working hours and excessive overtime. But it’s generally accepted that Foxconn is not too bad an employer by Chinese standard; and the China plant is still getting thousands of job applications per day despite the unfortunate incidents.
The situation actually leads to a bigger picture for the nation, which is beginning to feel the side effect of capitalism, i.e. unbalance distribution of wealth where the rich is getting richer and the poor poorer. The phenomenon is happening everywhere around the globe, but Chinese people is feeling the most heat with their rapid economic growth for the past two decades.
The lack of mental healthcare is also a cause of concern; mental issue is still relatively a taboo subject in China (and most of Asia) where people are reluctant to seek help when needed, or don’t have proper channels even if they wanted to.
The kindergarten massacres is still fresh in many peoples’ mind, and the Foxconn suicides is not a mere coincident. Both sagas show that the social-economic situation is pushing the Chinese people to the edge. Things need to be done soon to tackle the problem, as I feared that we are not seeing the worst yet.