Under-Age Workers Allegedly Used In The Manufacturing Of The Wii U

Nintendo’s new console is only a few weeks away and the company have been working hard making sure the all Wii U units are manufactured in time for launch. However it’s been reported by Sina and Games QQ that the production line involved in manufacturing the Wii U included several under-age workers.

Naturally the current world economy means that globalised companies such as Nintendo see China as a desirable location to manufacture their goods. This is an ethical issue that has arisen for several technology companies over the years such as Apple, Sony, Microsoft and Samsung. Because the cost of manufacturing in China is currently low this saving can be passed onto the consumer while at the same time boosting profit margins.

The facility in question is Foxconn, who have a bit of a reputation for exploiting workers’ rights. They’ve been in the news recently for their involvement in the iPhone 5 manufacturing scandal.

According to Games QQ Foxconn’s Yantai factory used interns aged 14 to 16 to manufacture the Wii U and even made them work overtime to make sure targets were met. Kotaku have reported that one particular child, Xiao Wang (alias), was allegedly told he would be kicked out of school simply because he was dismissed from the factory.

“I did transport work, helping them move goods,” said 14 year-old Xiao Wang (alias). “Right now, the night shift is 7:40 PM until the morning… you know, til what time in the morning is uncertain. Whenever the work is done is when you get off your shift. If you don’t finish the work, he (the production line foreman) won’t let you end your shift. Usually, you can get off by 7 AM. My arms would hurt from the work.”

Foxconn have since told Bloomberg that a “small number” of underage workers were used but after being alerted to the problem this practice has been stopped.

“Any Foxconn employee found, through our investigation, to be responsible for these violations will have their employment immediately terminated… 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.”

Nintendo have not yet commented on this issue. In the past they have carried out audits on its manufacturing partners so it’s unknown how they managed to miss this huge ethical concern.

Foxconn has a reputation for worker exploitation and this could well damage Nintendo’s reputation along with it, some would say rightly so. Nintendo should probably consider changing manufacturing parter or at least start to scrutinise their current partners more.

Ethical consumption is growing year-on-year in developed nations and this is an issue that will not go away. China’s rising wage costs will have a massive impact on the future of globalised manufacturing meaning companies could look towards other nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia to save more on future costs.

Ethical consumers have many ways to show support for exploited workers such as the ones at Foxconn. They could boycott products manufactured in their plants and the companies who use them or look elsewhere for a more ethically sound company, something that, in the technology sector at least, is quite rare.

What do you think? Will this news put you off buying a Wii U or do you see this as an unavoidable fact of life in an increasingly globalised economy? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

[Sources: Kotaku; Sina, Games QQ; Guardian; Bloomberg]

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