Pix Of Where The Chinese iPhone Worker-Drones Sleep

Gizmodo’s Joel Johnson got to peek inside the Foxconn factory in China where your iPhone and other fancy gadgets get made. Some 200,000 workers work inside, and also live in on-site dorms. Perhaps the most gripping images, however, are of what’s on the outside. Every building is draped in protective nets to prevent workers from suiciding off the roofs.

Exclusive Look: Where The Workers Who Made Your iPhone Sleep At Night [Gizmodo]
Exclusive Look: Living at Foxconn [Gizmodo]


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  1. Serpephone says:

    OH man

  2. Darrone says:

    I love the tiny tv’s in a communal “relaxation” space with wooden benches. This, from one of the worlds largest suppliers of flat-screen panels.

    • evilrobot says:

      The wooden bench is very common furniture in Chinese homes. While we (USA) consider a bench relegated to a bus station, it’s their cultures version of our living room sofa.

      Our american asses

  3. jason in boston says:

    Better than when I was active duty – almost better than year 1 at Umass.

    • Azzizzi says:

      On active duty, it’s hit or miss. I remember taking a tour of the USS John C. Stennis six or seven years ago. There was a tiny space under a metal stairwell that someone put about a 36-inch flat screen TV and two chairs right in the middle of a busy walkway.

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The same thing is on Wired.com. Some of the comments there pointed out that these conditions may seem terrible to the Western world, they are on par with the quality of many living conditions in China.

    • v0rt says:

      Seems, at worst, par for the course for low income (typically migrant) workers in China. When I studied in Beijing 6 years ago, it was still pretty typical for Chinese college students to have between 6 and 10 students to a dorm room with lots of bunks.

      • v0rt says:

        Actually, I should qualify/correct my statement. Those are pretty darn good accommodations for migrant Chinese labor. Among other things, they have a window.

      • Bob Lu says:

        A single so called “low” income workers in China may earn about twenty to fifty times more than the else of his/her whole family in their farming hometown.

        I am not saying their working/living condition is “good” or even acceptable but it is worth thinking why they choose this work? (No they are not forced labor. Actually, people literally kill each other in competing for such jobs.)

    • osiris73 says:

      Oh, well then, that makes it okay.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I said no such thing – I was just offering some context. My point wasn’t that it is “okay” – only that it’s not uncommon.

  5. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Don’t forget the next article in the series, where they show where the workers eat, play, shop, surf the wb, etc…:

    • Muddie says:

      This actually looked better then college campus I’ve seen in the US.

      The real question is is this what they are showing us, or is this what real daily life is like for the workers or both?

      • ihatephonecompanies says:

        I imagine it’s a bit of both – after an full shift and then some classes and homework, you don’t have a lot of time left to use the various facilities. Oh yeah, add sleep in there too I suppose…

        You gotta remember though that this is a society undergoing massive, massive transition. For the masses, you don’t get a cushy jobs and retirement plans for another generation – the current one is the one works their asses off so their kids can go to university and take arts courses.

    • junip says:

      Yah, I hate to say it but it seems a bit like Ben is trolling here by only showing the link meant to make westerners go “OMG that’s terrible” and not showing the other link you posted too. Thankfully, many of the commentors here have caught on to the fact that their dorm conditions might in fact be pretty normal for their area.

  6. Rocket80 says:

    I was expecting a lot worse, to be honest. This just looks like a college dorm, I’m not outraged in the least.

    • kaplanfx says:

      Agreed, this conditions look quite good for a developing country. There is exercise equipment and recreation space. Sure the dorm rooms are a bit cramped (they don’t have LARGE Americans living in them though) but I lived with 3 people in a 10×12 foot dorm in college for a year, it was not a big deal.

      • amgriffin says:

        Glad this appeals to you. With the labor market becoming global, it’s what generations of future Americans can look forward to.

  7. Anachronism says:


    I’ve certainly seen worse living environments.

    My brother worked as a lift op/ski bum in Aspen for many years, and his employee housing was in line with that- Beautiful on the outside, cramped, dirty, and such on the inside. He got a room about the size of a walk in closet to himself, barely big enough for a twin with drawers underneath, and then shared a 10×10 room with a bathroom and kitchen with 4 other people. So, I guess that would be an upgrade, but not an enormous one.

  8. MDSasquatch says:

    The USAF sent me to Saudi Arabia for the summer back in my active-duty days; it was 130 degrees in the day and 100 degrees in the evening. I lived in a tent in the middle of the desert, did my SSS in a tent as well. We had air conditioning, but it could only do so much.

    I would have gladly moved into one of these places.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      I hear ya bro. I was in Kuwait in May of ’07 and the temp was 138. I have NEVER felt such heat in my life. It was having a hair blow dryer 2 inches from your face.

  9. Raekwon says:

    From the looks of things it is very similar to many of the places I lived when I was in Taiwan for 2 years. In fact a lot of people live in much worse living conditions making a lot less money. I went to one house that factory workers lived in and they had little baby gates in the hallway signifying where each person’s “room” ended. One person live in the bathtub (at least he slept there) and they all shared the living room as a communal rec area. In other dorms each room was the size of a normal cubicle with the communal bathroom being a hose hung over a wall. There was no cooling, heating, privacy, or anything. The walls separating the rooms were pretty much suspended plywood boards.

    While this should still not be acceptable I think we have a very skewed view of how other people in the world are and how they live.

    • CFinWV says:

      Not to mention those mobile dorms that they cart around to construction sites, I saw tons of those in Beijing and couldn’t believe how many people lived in each one.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      There’s actually a really fascinating piece contrasting the slums of India and the Mumbai attacks with the perception of India brought about by Slumdog Millionaire. It also talks about the children who live in the slums, and of course, people have forgotten all about them but this article is just fascinating.

      It’s also really cool to scroll through.


  10. ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

    I see a lot of, “Hey, that’s good enough for them!”

    While most Americans would agree that for a similar manufacturing job taken by Americans, they’d deserve better.

    These people aren’t doing a stint in the military or going to college for four years. Comparing this to temporary accomodation/life-phases seems a little like a false comparison to me.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      But you have to consider the differences in culture and infrastructure there – as others have pointed out, this is actually comparable to much of how the rest of China lives. “The rest of China” being the rural and poor. Compared to the US and Europe, this isn’t great but it’s also because in the US and Europe, we have higher standards for how our rural and poor population live. We have mandates like Section 8 and government assistance. Even if China had all those things (and it might; I’m not sure), China is much more rural and less developed than the US. The government has also placed many sanctions against migration, making it difficult for citizens to leave rural areas and head for cities. Also, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have become poorer in response because the cost of living has risen. Half of China’s population is rural, and in many parts of the country, having access to running water is a problem – that’s not something we deal with in the US.

      • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

        Thanks for providing an exact demonstration of the summary I just made.

        I also pointed out that one problem is people comparing this to their own Western experiences where it doesn’t compare. I do however, fail to see where “culture” enters into standard of living. It’s in their culture to be poor? Culture is one thing, wealth is another.

        I’m not saying it’s the most inhumane thing in the world. I am saying that I’m detecting a level of hubris and naivete that makes me squirm a little.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          By “culture” I mean that the country, despite its capitalistic goals, is still Communist and is oppressive towards its people. Government control is the only game in town. The government imprisons people who want better standards because it’s a direct affront to the government’s power. The government just decried the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo because he is considered a dissident for advocating freedom in China. They see him as a dissident and criminal for promoting the things that the rest of the world thinks is a fundamental human right.

        • ldub says:

          I hear you. Apparently, there’s a rule book out there that I haven’t read that says that it’s OK for these people to live shitty lives, and get paid very little to make luxury products for us. There’s no other system of organization wherein they could get paid better, or get better working conditions. We are just supposed to accept it.

    • Mom says:

      Actually, it is pretty good. They place looks fairly clean, and they appear to have a reasonable amount of space, recreation opportunities, and decent food. That said, from what I’ve read elsewhere, what you’re seeing is both a) really, really good when compared to how the typical migrant lives, and b) probably sanitized to some extent for the foreign press.

      Shenzhen is a government controlled, fenced city, where the workers have to have work permits. The companies “inside the fence” have much better wages and working conditions than the companies “outside the fence,” which are illegal under Chinese law. Needless to say, the majority of migrants work outside the fence. Foxconn is inside the fence.

  11. SecretAgentWoman says:

    I wonder if living there is mandatory (condition of employment), or voluntary (cheaper than getting their own place if their single) or neccessary (no choice because they are paid such a pathetic wage)??

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      The article says that roughly half of the employees live in these dorms. The follow-up article says most that live there are from other parts of the country.

    • Mom says:

      Typically, they live there as long as they’re single. They generally don’t make enough money to live anywhere else. Once they get married, they combine incomes to move into an apartment elsewhere.

  12. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    Looks like my dorm housing, except a little more shabby, and with less 70’s brown motif. Otherwise, I imagine coming from the countryside of post cultural revolution china, it’s a pretty sweet deal.
    I esp. Love GitEm$teveDave’s links to the XBOX arcade arena they have, as well a scholastic training.

    China is going through a form of industrial revolution. We did worse during ours.

  13. esc27 says:

    Seems similar to the air condition component factory I got to tour many years ago in China. There, the employees weren’t allowed off property except on weekends and weren’t even allowed to call “home” (if they had families outside) during the work week. Most of the reading materials available to employees were company related (better to keep employees thinking about work even when not on the clock.) Seems creepy from a Western perspective, but apparently this is common over there.

  14. peebozi says:

    Why do all of the complainers hate the Free Market…china is a beaming ray of sunshine in regards to the free market! No government meddling with wages and working conditions. The chinese also know that a contract between two private entities (in this case, the corporation and slave er, wage earner) should not be interfered with by the likes of a socialist regime…hmmmm.

    • Talmonis says:

      My good man, I enjoy most of your posts and completely agree with you here. Global free trade is just ducky…if you’re the rich guy profiting off of other people’s serfdom.

  15. captadam says:

    Well, that’s dreadful.

    But let’s look at the living quarters of the poor and unemployed in the U.S., shall we?

  16. Groanan says:

    Really reminds me of 1984, especially the group TV viewing room that looks perfect for the two minutes hate.

  17. SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

    Two words: suicide net. Although I agree that the conditions aren’t great and probably sanitized a bit.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Well, compare the suicide rates of their work force numbers to national averages, and tell me if they are any higher. Sometimes someone does something and people copy cat. I seem to recall a NPR article about a guy who works on a bridge stopping people from jumping riding a little scooter. His name was Chen Sah: http://www.8asians.com/2010/06/09/a-bridge-in-nanjing-a-hero-chen-sah/ Can we blame all the people jumping off the bridge on one company? Well, we can, but we’d be misguided.

  18. jomiku says:

    As a few others have noted, the living standards in China are vastly different from ours. A family living in a single room is common.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      I’ve actually lived in worker dorms at a major manufacturer (in Asia.) It took some getting used to, but in the end, it was a great opportunity for a lot of the people there who were from poorer countries to save a ton of money to send home to their families.

      I was fortunate in that I worked in the offices with all the fancy white-collar folks, but I talked to a few of the line guys. Yeah, the hours were long and hard, but they were all glad for the opportunity because otherwise they were going to go home and have no opportunities other than go back to their little plot of land.

  19. ldub says:

    Wow… interesting to see all the apologists and rationalizers. Cause, you know, those workers could be living in a cardboard box, right? Kinda reminds me when Barbara Bush noted that the Katrina victims “have it pretty good” because they got to stay in nice hotels when their homes flooded.

    Given the retail prices of the products these people make, their salaries are shameful. And the recreational activity areas are largely for show – for when Westerners care to show an interest – and are woefully inadequate for the actual number of people who work at the factories. There’s plenty of information all over the web about these factories.

    And those of you comparing the factories to your dorms? Imagine your dorm rooms are where you’ll be living for the forseeable future. Where you’re going to have to make your life, not where you’ll be “roughing it” for a few years as a young person with access to your family home, safe water/food, police and medical attention available, etc.. etc….

    • hotcocoa says:

      Couldn’t have said it better.
      The comments of “dude, I had roommates in college and ate ramen all the time, big deal!” and “uh, they’re poor. Poor people have shitty lives. No surprise.” show how clueless some people really are.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Damn, you say a stadium, internet cafe, etc… is woefully inadequate? By that standard, your backyard is a “show” for your guests.

      • halfcuban says:

        It is when you have 200,000 people in the place. Without any context we have no idea how “adequate” these facilities are for housing or anything else. There are also scant details on how many employees realistically can afford many of these amenities and how they purchase them i.e. is all this stuff simply a glossy form of the old company town? Are there wages nickeled and dimed for all sorts of other stuff?

        We really can’t know without having someone actually working there come on and tell us, and certainly they aren’t going to share these details to a reported whose evidently being led around by executives.

    • dg says:

      Been there, done that. It’s called being a graduate assistant. I lived in the building that I worked in – it was an old dorm converted into offices, had an apartment or two left in it. I walked out my front door, I was IN THE LOBBY at work. Did that for many years while in grad school. I survived, I suspect these people will too.

      If they don’t like it, they can go back to the village and live in the rural conditions… And not everyone has to be paid the same wage around the world. Just because a product sells for $X doesn’t mean that the employees who manufacture it have to be paid $Y. They’re not entitled to a specific percentage, or in fact, any percentage of the sales price. They get paid a wage dependent upon local laws and cost of living. What they’re making may be more, much more, than what they made previously on the farm.

      It might not be what you or I would consider a big salary by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s the reality in that locale. That some company is able to make a bigger profit by utilizing qualified, but lower cost labor simply means that the labor in the company’s home country needs to reduce it’s costs to compete (if it can) or go do something else if it can’t.

      Why the hell would you want to pay more to have something done, when someone else can do it just as well (indeed, if not better) for less?

    • Firethorn says:

      Thing is, the ‘retail price’ isn’t the whole story. Have you ever seen how much farmers sell their produce for compared to market rates? There’s reasons why farmers markets often have such good deals.

      You have R&D expenses, factory setup costs, transportation, warehousing, retail, and warranty expenses that you have to account for. Customer support.

      I’m not going to say it’s right or wrong, it is what it is. China is undergoing it’s own industrial revolution, and, well, look at films like Charles Dicken’s to see how our revolution went. They appear to be doing it cleaner and faster, with less child labor.

      It’s an industrial revolution; from multiple examples this sort of stuff comes up pretty much every time, and won’t go away until the ready source of labor from the countryside dries up.

  20. dg says:

    Looks nice. Kinda like a college dorm. Consider that most of these people came from rural villages with poor housing conditions. This is an upgrade.

    I don’t see what the problem is.

  21. FenrirIII says:

    Fun fact: iPhones really run on the tears of Chinese labor. The battery just powers the back-lighting.

  22. framitz says:

    I have lived in much worse conditions in the military, much worse. I honestly don’t see a problem here. They live better that I imagined.

  23. jenl1625 says:

    I’ve read in various articles that while the suicide rates seem incredibly at first glance, the suicide rates among Apple workers are lower than among the general population of China. Here’s one – http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/11/05/another-foxconn-suicide/.

    And according to another article, the suicide rate at this factory is lower than the U.S. suicide rate – http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/05/26/businessinsider-apple-and-dell-investigating-the-foxconn-working-conditions-2010-5.DTL.