News Article

Foxconn's High Suicide Rate to be Investigated by Nintendo

Posted by Trevor Chan

Outsourcing company has raised concerns that Nintendo are looking into

If things like Greenpeace eco-surveys don't appear to be on Nintendo's attention radar, it's very clear that employee working conditions are. High suicide rates at a facility operated by one of its outsourcing companies, Foxconn, has prompted Nintendo to start an investigation.

Nikkei reports that the facility, situated in Shenzhen, Guangdong China has apparently had several employees end their own lives but it is unclear exactly how many and over what time period. Foxconn is the core subsidiary of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. to which Nintendo outsources some of its products, one of which includes the Wii.

What's behind the cause of the suicides is anyone's guess at this point and the most reliable thing to do right now is to wait to see what the investigation uncovers.

[via marketwatch.com]

More Stories

User Comments (34)

Aviator

#2

Aviator said:

"What's behind the cause of the suicides is anyone's guess..."
Shouldn't it say like that, privately sure but not publicly.

Chris720

#4

Chris720 said:

@Ravage So I'm guessing he won't be at E3 this year? :P

That'srather quite strange... Maybe its what Machu said, Apple poisoning? :P

Token_Girl

#5

Token_Girl said:

Apple, Sony, Dell, and others outsource to this company as well, so it's not just Nintendo. It's good they're investigating things though. It will be hard to find out what the real situation is unfortunately, because the Chinese government will ultimately control the investigation. He'll either use his connections to weasel his way out of it like one of the factory owners in the lead paint toys scandal did a few years back, or his factory will be made into an "example" (Not sure how much they can actually do to the owner legally, since he's from Taiwan though).

DEADCELL

#6

DEADCELL said:

I respect Nintendo for actually doing something about it. Not long ago, and undercover journalist exposed some of the terrible conditions that these people have to work in, and it is no wonder that they are driven to suicide.

The_Fox

#7

The_Fox said:

You know, maybe if everyone stopped f*****g outsourcing everything to China things like this wouldn't be such a concern. Every country has had worker rights issues, but the state of such in factories has long been abysmal in China.

Adam

#8

Adam said:

What's to investigate? Workers already signed a form stating:

In the event of non-accidental injuries (including suicide, self mutilation, etc.), I agree that the company has acted properly in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, and will not sue the company, bring excessive demands, take drastic actions that would damage the company's reputation or cause trouble that would hurt normal operations.

So it's obviously not Foxconn's fault. Sounds like even the suicides knew they were working at a high class company that doesn't degrade its employees or abuse its power through downright evil contracts (that practically demand the average employee be prescient for her signature to even mean anything) whatsoever.

Conditions don't sound that great. Supposedly there's lots of unpaid overtime and sometimes no breaks for meals, and they aren't paid enough to afford the cheapest products they work on. Of course, it also sounds better than China's average sweatshop, for whatever that's worth.

I'm glad Nintendo's looking into it, but like Fox said, this wouldn't be a concern if they'd just make their own damn products. In the long run, having the world outsource everything to China will not be good for anyone... except maybe China, who will have the blueprints for all the major products we use, and the means for making them.

motang

#10

motang said:

@Machu LOL, putting that aside, I think Nintendo is doing a good thing, and all companies that use Foxconn should take this issue and see if they can do something about it. Dell, Apple and Nintendo are doing something about it which is good let's hope this will help out the workers at Foxconn.

Token_Girl

#11

Token_Girl said:

The suicide rate at Foxconn actually isn't higher than the rest of China. It just gets a lot more publicity than any other factory, because of all the big names it manufactures for.

@Adam Every company in the States makes you sign some sort of release like that too. Just because you sign something SAYING the company isn't at fault or mistreating you when you're hired, doesn't mean that they don't mistreat their employees. There are lots of ways factories can exploit their workers in China, and contracts really don't mean all that much here. The factory boss has more clout then the average migrant worker, so there's really no place to turn if employees are forced to do unpaid overtime, aren't paid their wages on time (if at all...it does happen), or are living in completely unlivable conditions, and there's no real incentive for the bosses to NOT break the contracts if they can save some cash (well, at least not until suicides hit the news).

rafaelluik

#12

rafaelluik said:

They are suiciding because they can't stand the power of the newly Nintendo being produced: 3DS. LOL

Slapshot

#14

Slapshot said:

Im blame Kevin Butler... yeah its his fault for being a smart @$$ :O

Maybe these guys know something that we dont about 3DS :) If they are offing themselves maybe its not good new either!

..... oh, and thats why I pay a union monthly. I get paid for my overtime ;)

Adam

#16

Adam said:

Token, I think you missed the part where I called the entire contract downright evil. That was the cue for what I'd expected was obvious sarcasm, haha.

I didn't realize US factories got away with this kind of legal crap, too, but then I've never worked in a factory, so I suppose that was just blind optimism.

But seriously, it makes no sense. The contract asks that the employee admit that "In the event of non-accidental injuries" (referring to a future, unspecified event) they must "agree that the company has acted properly in accordance with relevant laws and regulations" (referring to future perfect knowledge). How the heck is a prospective hiree supposed to know that in the case of an injury it will not have been the employer's fault and that they followed all regulations? No one can know that, so what does the signature mean?

I know as Americans we are supposed to believe in some mystic China, but I don't believe for a second that the employees can see into the future to know that if they are ever injured in any way it won't be because of the factory. The signature is entirely devoid of meaning except as a symbol of desperation and submission.

Just goes to show that China, like Russia, has no idea what the word communism means. This is exactly the sort of thing Marx and company were setting out to avoid, factory bosses tossing their weight around to manipulate workers into a corner where they have no power. All this contract says is, I have more power than you, and you have no choice but to admit this.

Pure evil.

NINTENBOY

#18

NINTENBOY said:

Does anybody really cares about this. I mean don't think I'm an A**hole I think it's very sad when someone takes their own life but the only reason this is even on here is that nintendo's name was in it a tiny bit. I mean really when you go to this website do you expect to see this sucide article with super mario galxey 2 and other REAL nintendo material that you want to read about not this.

Adam

#19

Adam said:

Super Mario Galxey 2 is "real," but ten people dead isn't?

Unfortunately, video games are not all pure creative work. It's also a business. Nintendo Life (and every other site focused on gaming journalism) has always reported on the business side of things. This article is no change of direction. Can't expect them to report only on sunshine and flowers.

I'm glad people are enjoying SMG2, but I think we can take a two minute break from it and take a look at the reality of the world that brings these games to our homes, and how it may be destructive to others. I can understand being bothered by the article -- it's very troublesome -- but choosing to ignore it is more troublesome, and I think complaining about it is more than a bit out of place.

WildPidgeyAppears

#20

WildPidgeyAppears said:

This is sad and unfortunate. If conditions are that awful, something needs to be done in that particular building. It sickens me how China treats its people in all areas, including business. "People's Republic" my behind, it's a dictatorship.

Link-Hero

#21

Link-Hero said:

If you think North America, Europe, Australia, or where ever you live at is a bad place, then just take a good look at places like China and try to say that you live in a terrible country. China alone is worse off than any of the major Nations combined with its people living in awful conditions and corrupted dictatorship governments.

I sure wish that we all lived in a better, more peaceful world, but that won’t probably happen until we all are long dead and even our children’s children.

@People who are making fun of this

You think people committing suicide is funny? You think you need to add a funny comment to a sad event? Would you just please stop? It makes you all look like evil ***holes.

Slapshot

#22

Slapshot said:

@WildPigney.... well China is a Dictatorship. Its Communism to its full extent. Somehow even here in the US people think Communism is just great and wonderful.

Reality: It isnt at all.

(Slave) Forced Labor is one of the MANY big problems with a Communist Regime running a country. Damn shame Nintendo is selling out to cheap labor, but Im sure the other gaming companies are as well. Heck dang near everything comes from China!

Adam

#23

Adam said:

Ehh, you haven't read much about communism if you think dictatorship is its "full extent." That doesn't really make sense. I think many would argue that a true communist society is nothing like China or North Korea, not even like the Soviets were.

The fact that there still are factory bosses with such power over their employees to force them into degrading contracts like these is proof that they have no idea what communism is: Worker control of factories is basically step one on the path to communism, with its goal being to end slave-like labor, not enforce it.

And though I admit I know next to nothing about their current administration, I am pretty sure it's not even a dictatorship anymore... Of course, with a one party state, that distinction is not much to hang one's hat on, but it's still not an excuse for promoting cold war era red scare portraits of socialist states.

WildPidgeyAppears

#24

WildPidgeyAppears said:

@21: I agree. Death isn't a funny business, and suicide is horrible. You people should be ashamed for stooping so low as to make fun of something awful that's forced these people to do such a thing.

Sadly, the reason we outsource to China is the relatively inexpensive labor wages, enormous work force and etc. It's all economics. Unfortunately, most companies cannot control the working conditions in China, which are deplorable.

jbrodack

#25

jbrodack said:

Thanks Nintendo Life for putting up a real life story like this. Some pieces of news I've kinda wondered why they even posted but though this wasn't direct game news definitely deserved to be posted.

Also, even though I love black humor and regularly laugh at messed up stuff some of the comments seemed a bit in bad taste. Not because I'm offended or trying to make like I'm better than anyone but because they imply that people really don't care and that gaming is more important than any real issues.

Anyway, high suicide rates are a sad thing and no one should have to deal with not being paid for the work they have done.

@adam your comments on this were very insightful and enjoyed the sarcasm. I agree about communism. In theory and Marxist writing it actually does sound good or at least more fair but any actual implementation of it like in China has been terrible.

Token_Girl

#26

Token_Girl said:

@Adam

Sorry I misunderstood about the evil contract thing. I doubt a lot of factories in the States have quite so restrictive contracts, but it wouldn't be too far out of place for something on a release form. US companies face much greater lawsuit threats, so you can bet they'd do whatever they can to try to prevent it.

As for China, what you are seeing with factories is very similar to capitalism in the United States at the turn of the last century with lots of unskilled labor moving to the cities and bosses doing what they could to prevent unionization and keep wages low.

The export driven economy in China is somewhat of a necessary evil. China has a LOT of people who need to be employed, and they are already losing factories to places like Vietnam. China has a very high savings rate, due to people needing to pay out of pocket for education, health care, and retirement expenses. China is much less socialist than we are now when it comes to social services. Of course, that means Chinese people are VERY careful about their purchases, and don't buy enough to keep the entire population employed.

I think it is important to remember in all this that since China has opened up, China has raised millions of people above the international poverty line (They were poor before communism, Mao just kept them there). It is in the government's best interest to direct the economy in a way that generally benefits the people to prevent social unrest. It does make room for corruption, which is the reason abuses can occur.

Keep in mind, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan all used VERY similar economic models to China and experienced high rates of growth initially with bumpy transitions (10 year long recession in the case of Japan). You can bet Chinese leaders have seen that and are trying to keep the export driven economy viable as long as possible and learn from the other countries mistakes to transition successfully.

In short, ending outsourcing to China is an overly simplistic, impractical, and isn't necessarily the position holding the "moral high ground." It's much more complicated. Ideally individual consumers and corporations would be willing to pay a tad bit more to ensure workers enjoy some basic standards of living.

Adam

#28

Adam said:

Well, what are you suggesting is better, TG? Ideally, China should change, yes, but they have a history of doing as little as possible to prevent social unrest, and reducing how much we outsource might convince them to change faster. History says China will not be pushed around by people saying, "Hey, whatcha doin thar?" so I don't know what better option there is.

Everything I've read about this factory has suggested that it's, like you said, not much better than turn of the century capitalism was, and this is supposed to be one of the better factories, isn't it? If they aren't doing anything to keep the factory bosses in check and raise living conditions (they raised wages slightly, but only after ten people killed themselves -- round of applause?), then the countries making use of it are equally responsible.

The world kept revolving before this make-everything-in-China model, and I have a hunch it would continue to do so if we broke away from it. Sure, prices would go up, and we'd have fewer fancy things to show to our fancy friends, but I can live with that change. It's not exactly the most sustainable model, either. Making things locally is always better, at least in the long run. That's how civilization got started.

Of course, in the case of Nintendo, this has nothing to do with me as an American since I'd still be getting my fancy Wii from fancy Japan, but I think it'd be in Nintendo's best interest.

I know I see a very simplified version of the world like a map drawn in crayon, so I know you have the far greater knowledge on the topic, but the internationalized world is full of these excessively complex systems that I often think no one can actually understand by this point (at least, that's my convenient excuse for my own ignorance, haha). I've always felt that the solution to everything is to localize as much as possible.

Token_Girl

#29

Token_Girl said:

@Adam

I would agree with you that localization is certainly better in the long run (mainly for energy costs), although there's also something to be said for the efficiency of comparative advantage, and the Chinese have that right now in the manufacturing sector.

I would also question whether poor factory conditions are worse than massive rates of unemployment (that's the only other option at this point in time). The IDEAL situation would be that consumers would research what they buy and how said products are made and would be willing to pay just a little bit extra to ensure that workers have livable conditions.

I think demanding transparency for where goods are produced overseas is crucial. Although we know about Foxcomm, they are probably outsourcing some less intensive parts to even crappier factories that we don't know about. If nothing else hopefully this will lead to more of a demand by consumers for increased knowledge about how their goods get to their homes. Until the government allows some space for employees to form private trade unions or eliminates corruption and finds the means/motivation to fully fund the Chinese equivalent of OSHA, the burden will be on foreign companies and consumers to make sure that the products they buy are socially responsible.

As for getting China to change, I'm not sure how effective reducing outsourcing would be (we'll pretend it's a politically and economically feasible option, because people are willing to pay 10 times as much to have things produced in America). Unless the reduction was significant and long term, it would just piss China off. Given how far they've come in the past 30 years (keep in perspective where they were in the 1970's), and the myriad of other international issues the US needs to cooperate with China on in this day in age, I really don't think anyone would benefit from restricted trade.

If there's any government measure that could be done to prevent US owned companies from exploiting foreign labor, I think it should be done. I really think the only way this situation could be improved in the short term is transparency and customer awareness. In the long term, as China transitions into a more domestic-consumption from an export oriented economy, hopefully the sort of protections we have now in the United States will start to appear.

For what it's worth, my understanding of economics consists of me balancing my checkbook by crayon (and by that I mean, I'm pretty sure I could do that, if the interwebz didn't do it for me). I'm pretty confident that if there was a simple and quick solution, this problem wouldn't be around anymore. Hopefully Ninty and other corporations involved will be able to successfully pinpoint the issues with Foxcomm and will be able to fix the issues there (cuz I really want to buy a 3DS guilt free).

Adam

#30

Adam said:

I wish I knew more so I could say more because it still doesn't feel right to me. I'd like to think that consumers are willing to spend more on this type of stuff, if not PS3 launch prices. And I suspect that there is wealth enough with the rich to pay workers better and afford them better hours either way. But my suspicions are a dime a dozen. Oh well, maybe Detective M. Mario will uncover something big and force some little change.

DEADCELL

#31

DEADCELL said:

China is much less socialist than we are now when it comes to social services.:

That is how socialism works. At first they promise you all of these wonderful benefits and gifts, and then they stab you in the back and leave you to starve. In a sense, they are MORE socialist than we are in terms of social services - they are just at a more advanced stage.

NINTENBOY

#33

NINTENBOY said:

@ adam Look I said that I really do think it's sad that ten people actually killed them selfs. This is very real to me and it happens everyday even here, ofcorse not as much here but it does happen. I just didn't like that they just put this in here just because it had nintendo's name in it and at the time most people were making fun of it.

Adam

#34

Adam said:

Well, at least we know the propaganda machine still works, Deadcell. You do know that there are plenty more countries where democracy is an equally undelivered promise, right? Deceptive politicians are not unique to any form of government. And there are plenty more democracies with populations just as hungry, if not hungrier, than China's.

Nintenboy, it's sad that some people's first reaction to the news of ten dead is to laugh, but that doesn't mean the news should not be covered. The site has always reported on the business side of things, and ten suicides at a factory Nintendo uses falls under that heading. People have a right to know what's going on where their games are made, whether some of us or comfortable with it or not. No one had to click the link and read it. There are many immature comments, but the site should not have to lower itself to the lowest denominator.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...