Picture of the week: Foxconn China by Gilles Sabrie

On 16/08/2013 by Site Default

There are more picturesque lunch spots than an industrial site on the outskirts of Zhengzhou, north-central China. But this young woman is probably enjoying the solitude as well as the break from her work, making iPhones at the Foxconn Zhengzhou technology park along with tens of thousands of other young Chinese.

Photographer Gilles Sabrie‘s interest lies not in the sheer drudgery of the work inside Foxconn’s vast factories – which produce electronics for Apple, Microsoft and others – but in what their workers do after hours. Following the apparent suicides earlier this year of three Foxconn employees at Zhengzhou, and 18 attempted suicides at its sister plant in southern China in 2010, the manufacturing giant has been under intense international pressure to raise wages, cut hours, increase safety and otherwise improve life for its young workers.

The Zhengzhou site, which resembles a down-at-heel street fair on a building site, has makeshift restaurants, stalls selling steamed buns, and mobile tattoo parlours. At night, there are bars and cabaret shows. Sabrie photographed young employees dancing and knocking back beer: “There is a sort of gold rush mentality,” he says. By far the most popular activity is outdoor roller disco: this has developed a large following among Foxconn employees, with dozens of teams gathering for weekly skating sessions across the city.

Most Foxconn workers live in cramped dorms with metal bunks and shared showers, which cost them around £20 a month. They work day and night shifts, and are bussed in and out of the factories en masse. Most last between six months and a year; as long as the demand for iPhones and iPads continues, there will be others willing to take their place.


Big picture: Foxconn

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