10th Suicide in 2010 at Foxconn; Incidents Finally Begin to Gain Wider Media Coverage

The following is my latest post on Digital East Asia.

A 10th suicide has occurred at Foxconn Technology Group (PINK: FXCNY). As Xinhua news agency reports(article reprinted on Sina, link in Chinese), Mr. Nan Gang, 21 years old, from Hunan province, jumped from a dormitory building around 4:50am on May 21st.

According to Mr. Nan Huan, also from Hunan (appears to be not related to Mr. Nan Gang), Mr. Nan Gang was a logistics employee at Foxconn and earned between RMB 1,000 to 2,000 a month (US$ 147-294).  On the night of May 20, he said his phone had been stolen and he was short on cash.  He was feeling low and said he wouldn’t be spending the night at the dormitory.

Mr. Nan Gang’s colleagues said he was quite open but had a short temper.  His colleagues were alarmed at his behavior a few days before his suicide, and even on the previous day his supervisor had taken him to the counseling services.  However it was not enough to prevent the incident.

It seems Foxconn has a suicide epidemic at its production base in Shenzhen.  It has taken a string of measures, such as setting up more counseling services, a hotline, and even monetary rewards for workers who alert management about their peers, but it is arguable whether these measures address the root causes.  Engadget has published a complete translation of the Southern Weekend article, which I discussed in my previous post, and from the perspective of that article, the lack ofany meaningful social structure is a big part of the root cause.  These 300,000 young workers live together, but they are alone and lack real relationships.  In such an environment, it is very easy to develop severe mental problems when working long hours and under stress.

On another note, it is at least encouraging that the incidents are gaining media coverage globally.  There continues to be an ongoing discussion in the Chinese media, and there has been no signs yet of any efforts by any government organization to censor the subject (it is quite typical for local governments to push for the censoring of such “un-harmonious” news, usually when their interests are directly or indirectly involved, and the argument for censorship is usually to stop copycat behavior).  Both Gizmodo and Engadget have been running articles, and traditional news outlets such as Reuters are also carrying the news.  Hopefully this will push Foxconn’s major clients, such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Sony Corporation ((ADR) NYSE: SNE), to start their own investigations.

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