Amazon Echo devices are being built by Chinese school children who are often forced to work nights and hours of overtime, according to a Guardian report.
Chinese schoolchildren are understood to have been employed by Amazons supplier Foxconn, often in breach of labour laws, according to leaked documents and interviews with workers.
In order to meet production targets the company has reportedly employed more than 1000 pupils aged 16 to 18 from local schools and technical colleges as “interns”, paying teachers to accompany them, to build Amazon’s Echo, Echo Dot and Kindle devices.
Though it is legal in China for factories to employ children as young as 16, it is against Chinese labour laws for them to work nights or do any overtime.
In response to the report Foxconn admitted that the teenagers had been hired illegally, adding: “We have doubled the oversight and monitoring of the internship program with each relevant partner school to ensure that, under no circumstances, will interns (be) allowed to work overtime or nights.
“There have been instances in the past where lax oversight on the part of the local management team has allowed this to happen and, while the impacted interns were paid the additional wages associated with these shifts, this is not acceptable and we have taken immediate steps to ensure it will not be repeated.”
An Amazon spokesperson added: “If we find violations, we take appropriate steps, including requesting immediate corrective action.
“We are urgently investigating these allegations and addressing this with Foxconn at the most senior level. Additional teams of specialists arrived on-site yesterday to investigate, and we’ve initiated weekly audits of this issue.”
Despite Foxconn defending the use of school children in its factories, arguing that it provides them will real-world work experience, workers speaking to the Guardian said they had been pressed into working overtime and that the experience was not relevant to their courses.
One 17-year-old student said he told his line manager he didn’t want to work overtime, but was told by his teacher that if he didn’t he would not be allowed to continue the internship and his graduation and scholarship applications would be affected.
In the leaked documents shared with China Labor Watch and the Guardian, Foxconn says “students need to work overtime” in order to meet production goals, and will be let go if they refuse.
It goes on to reveal that the factory turned to schoolchildren to “fulfil the shortage of the labour force and lower the cost of recruitment”, after struggling to recruit staff.