Taiwan-based company Foxconn Technology Group, a manufacturer of Apple's iPhone, has been hiring interns as young as 14 in its factory. The minimum working age in China is 16. When the interns were discovered in the factory, which is located in the city of Yantai, they were sent back to school.
It's not clear how many interns were found at the factory, but the parent company of Foxconn, Hon Hai Precision, issued a statement on the controversy:
"We recognize that full responsibility for these violations rests with our company and we have apologized to each of the students for our role in this action, any Foxconn employee found, through our investigation, to be responsible for these violations will have their employment immediately terminated.
Foxconn is one of the most reputable technology builders in south-east Asia. For Apple, it also builds the iPad, as well as assembling products for Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. Foxconn did not specifically comment on which factory the young workers were found in. China Labor Watch, a workers' rights group, laid the blame at Foxconn:
Foxconn is also culpable for not confirming the ages of their workers."
The issues surrounding China and labor regulations have been sensitive for foreign investors. But China is still the world's No. 1 producer of electronic goods, as well as a leader in other consumer goods such as shoes and clothing. Recently Foxconn was in the news when a riot broke out at a factory in the region of Taiyuan that resulted in 40 injuries.
Foxconn is one of China's biggest employers with 1.2 million workers. There is an internship program within their company that allows school students to work within factories, though only in the presence of teachers. In August, students were reporting that they were "compelled" to work. Foxconn's rebutted that the students were there of the their own accord and could leave at any time.