July 21, 2012

The Foxconn empire

Where your Ipad is made by Jordan Pouille http://mondediplo.com/2012/07/08empire Foxconn has around 20 factories of various sizes in mainland China — in Wuhan, Chengdu, Zhengzhou, Chongqing, Shanghai, Ningbo and Tianjin. From games consoles to 4G smartphones, Foxconn makes 40% of the world’s consumer electronics in China, where it employs over a million workers with an average age of 27, who work 56-60 hours a week and earn up to $500 a month (1). But it also assembles Sony TV sets in Slovakia and is starting up production in India, Malaysia and Brazil. Founder Terry Gou, 61, holds 30% of the company’s shares and is 184th on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people in 2012. Because Foxconn simply assembles components purchased by its clients and checks the quality of the end product, labour, rather than materials, is its largest cost. Hence the importance of vertical integration, in which the employer takes care of the workers’ needs. But the recent announcement that large numbers of robots are to be introduced suggests a change of tactics, at least in Shenzhen. Company spokesman Louis Woo said: “We can’t leave Shenzhen, even if wages here are higher than elsewhere in China, because the city has become a talent magnet, thanks above all to its universities. That could allow us to focus on leading brands, innovative products and our own R&D, but it would require sophisticated equipment.”

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