By the time you read this, it’s possible another worker at Foxconn will have committed suicide. It seems to be happening so fast now that the newspapers can barely keep up with it, let alone the CEOs whose most significant policy adjustment thus far has been to make employees sign a piece of paper saying they won’t kill themselves. While you’re pondering just how stupid that is, here’s a little sample:
3. 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.
I’ll leave a longer post for Stan Abrams, who is in Boston at the moment, as he knows far more about business that I do. But to me, this seems pretty pointless. “In the event of non accidental injuries” like suicide and self-mutilation, “I will not…take drastic actions that would damage the company’s reputation”? If someone is willing to kill or maim themselves because they’re upset about their jobs (or whatever) I submit that:
- They are probably not concerned about having signed a piece of paper promising not to commit suicide.
- They are already pretty committed to taking “drastic actions”
- They do not give a fuck about “the company’s reputation”
I understand that asses need to be covered, legally speaking, but does this letter seem pointless and callous to anyone else? “Hey, guys, would you mind not killing yourselves? Thanks. It’s really embarrassing for us.” Yeah, that’s the problem.
Some people have suggested that Foxconn people are killing themselves at a rate that’s similar to the overall suicide rate in China, but as Evan Osnos suggests, that’s probably not a very fair comparison given that the demographics at Foxconn are quite different than the demographics in China as a whole. According to these graphs from the World Health Organization, a large percentage of the people who kill themselves in Chinese society are over 55 years old, whereas Foxconn presumably doesn’t have a lot of 65-year-old laborers.
In any event, as I know nothing about business, so we’ll leave the serious analysis for someone smarter (perhaps you, commenters?) But there are a few other, unrelated things I want to direct your attention to. First, this week’s Sinica podcast is even more excellent than they usually are. If you aren’t already listening, get on that. Also, check out this new project, an attempt to translate many of Ai Weiwei’s tweets into English. It’s very new, and with only two translators so far, they’re hard-pressed to keep up with Ai’s constant torrent of tweets, but as someone who has translated quite a bit of Ai Weiwei himself, I find it pretty interesting, and you might too. They also have an interesting interpretation of the “Lord Ai” phenomenon.
UPDATE: Apparently, there have been three more suicides since I posted this.