SAN FRANCISCO—Contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group has admitted it employed interns as young as 14—a possible violation of China's labor laws—after accusations made by a labor rights watchdog group.
In a statement widely reported by several media outlets, Foxconn said it takes full responsibility for the violations and said it has apologized to the students involved. The firm promised to investigate and terminate the employment of any Foxconn employee found responsible for the violations.
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According to China Labor Watch, a non-profit worker rights group, Foxconn's manufacturing site in Yantai employed a small number of student interns over the summer between 14 and 16 years old. Foxconn has sent the underage interns back to school, according to the group.
The minimum work age in China is generally 16. However, it is permissible in China to employ interns under 16 if they have lighter workloads than regular works and do not work overtime or night shifts, according to China Labor Watch. The organization said there is a gray area in China's labor laws with regard to interns.
"If Foxconn let those interns work the same as those normal workers, then it is a violation of laws," said a spokeswoman for China Labor Watch, in an email exchange with EE Times.
CNET reported Tuesday that Foxconn acknowledged that employing the underage interns was a violation of Chinese labor law and company policy.
Foxconn workers build products at a facility in Shenzen, China.
Foxconn, an original design manufacturer owned by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Co. Ltd., makes products for Apple Inc. and others on a contract basis. According to an Associated Press report, Foxconn said its manufacturing facility in Yantai—located in the northeastern Chinese province of Shandong—does not make any products for Apple.
China Labor Watch said the underage interns were mostly sent to Foxconn by schools. According to the group, the schools involved should take primary responsibility for the violations. But Foxconn is also culpable for not checking the workers' IDs and confirming their ages, according to the group.