Workers on Apple assembly lines to earn more, work less

All that hoopla about working conditions in iPhone and iPad assembly lines seems to have paid off—perhaps literally so, as far as workers are concerned. According to the Associated Press, Foxconn has vowed to pay employees more money and reduce their working hours. The article doesn’t detail the pay raises, but it says weekly work time will be slashed to 49 hours, down from an average of 60.

49 hours is the legal maximum in China, the AP says, but companies like Foxconn have been flaunting the limit openly.

How do employees feel about the change? The Fair Labor Association reportedly found that Foxconn workers were “the happiest with their jobs” when they worked 52 hours a week. However, Reuters quotes a couple of Foxconn workers who don’t sound thrilled about working fewer hours. “We are worried we will have less money to spend,” says one of them, a 23-year-old woman from southern China. Another, a 25-year-old woman who has worked at Foxconn for four years, told Reuters: “We have just been told that we can only work a maximum of 36 hours a month of overtime. I tell you, a lot of us are unhappy with this.” Reuters says she earns about $635 a month.

Apple, meanwhile, could benefit from the changes in the long run—and not just from a public relations standpoint. IHS iSuppli told the AP that, right now, Apple sells iPhone 4S handsets to carriers for “about $600” but only pays Foxconn $196—$188 in parts and $8 in labor—for each device. Labor costs should only rise $2 after the wage hikes and work time reductions are implemented. Apple should be able to absorb that easily, but its competitors, who have thinner margins and also rely on Foxconn for manufacturing, might feel more of a sting.

As of last quarter, Apple’s gross margin was a whopping 44.7%. The company posted a quarterly profit of $13.06 billion, and it had about $98 billion in the bank. Apple announced earlier this month that it would use part of its cash stockpile to repurchase stock and issue dividends to shareholders.

Comments closed
    • DarkUltra
    • 8 years ago

    Yo! I’m surprised this youtube video have not been linked yet.
    [url<]http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=zRBRdatmQhI[/url<] It is full of good insight. But I still think those workers should get much better wages, considering how much Apple makes.

    • gmskking
    • 8 years ago

    We should feel lucky to only work 40 hours a week. Wow, amazing what living conditions people have to deal with in other countries. I wish people did not have to deal with this. This is b ullshit, no one should have to live this way. Wish I had the power to stop it, I would in a second.

    • Silus
    • 8 years ago

    Oh yes…they “vowed” to raise the pay and reduce working hours….
    Just like Apple’s own reports have identified several illegal activities in over 30% of the factories they do business with for the past few years, yet Apple keeps doing business with them, despite saying they would stop if they found those illegal activities…

    So yeah…not easy to believe! My guess is they are just trying to reduce the pressure from the media, so they say these things, but they don’t really plan on fulfilling them. Just like they didn’t at the time of all those reported suicides. They didn’t reduce working hours or improved working conditions, they just installed nets outside of the factory and forced employees to sign a “no-suicide contract”.

    Yay for slave labor says Apple! We pay the minimum to make the product and sell it at huge profit margins, thanks to the gullible buyers, victims of our marketing campaigns! Thanks for the 100 billion in the bank dumb asses!

    • Buub
    • 8 years ago

    Wow, that won’t raise prices at all… /sarcasm

    But more importantly for the bleeding hearts, raising the price of labor will result in fewer people being hired. Doing so while forcing lower hours will make Foxconn less competitive, potentially resulting in Foxconn losing business. Sounds like unionism all over again, except without the union.

      • EtherealN
      • 8 years ago

      Fewer people being hired will only be a factor if Foxconn, as the employer, has to bear that cost. If the cost is transferred to Apple (in this case), that part of Foxconn’s labor force will be unaffected – and the overtime limits might actually lead to more people being needed. As always, it depends on who ends up having to pay for this.

      The note about apple’s competitors having less ability to absorb the raised labor costs might, however, lead to exactly what you describe, but that’s impossible to say without having the relevant numbers on hand.

      • crabjokeman
      • 8 years ago

      Everyone needs an expensive (not uber-expensive) Chinese-made iphone to make their life complete! That’s so much better than reasonable wages and working conditions!.. /sarcasm

      • thermistor
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, cause unions are never necessary. Ayn Rand just pulled things like child labor prohibitions, overtime laws, the concept we call the ‘weekend’, ad infinitum, out of her nether regions.

      I get better productivity out of workers when there are no safety guards on my stamping presses because they can get in a rhythm. Who cares if anyone loses a hand? I’ll just hire the next deadbeat who has a starving family.

      I love Capitalism – it’s a values-free zone!!

        • mutarasector
        • 8 years ago

        Perhaps you meant capitalism is a values-free zone when it is a communist co-opted/perverted form of it resembling ‘crony’ capitalism?

          • Kaleid
          • 8 years ago

          Laissez faire is indifferent to the suffering of people. People with money have worth, and those with little can forget things like healthcare, because the system wouldn’t care to provide it for them.

          It’s got nothing to do with communism.

          “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
          – Thomas Jefferson

          The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes strong than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

      • Silus
      • 8 years ago

      In the order in which you exposed your argument, you just showed the priorities at hand here:

      1) The cost of a product
      2) The people being exploited

      Yeah that’s pretty much how it works in this world. Inanimate things first, people second. And for what ? For the huge profits of companies, in this case the most valued tech company in the world that has a “mere” 100 billion in the bank…
      Apple already charges an arm and a leg for their products WHILE not doing anything to improve the working conditions of the factories they do business with. So if they increase their product prices because of this, it’s just Apple being Apple i.e. maintaining their huge profit margins.

      I’m one of those people that doesn’t really need to buy the very latest product from whatever company, so if a phone/tablet are more expensive, because PEOPLE have better working conditions and better wages, somewhere in the world, I’m fine with that. I’m sure that the tech addicts and especially Apple fans that buy everything they put out, even though they don’t need it, will be shocked with a position that has a priority list of 1) People 2) Everything else instead of the other way around…

    • link626
    • 8 years ago

    hot damn. $400 profit for each iphone ?

    labor laws limiting hours are stupid. You can’t apply american standards to chinese workers.
    Seems like the workers want to work more hours for more money.
    I say, Let them work !
    what else are they going to do in their downtime ?

    • Sam125
    • 8 years ago

    Once the workers realize that they’ll be paid the same for working less it’s going to become even more competitive to be hired at that facility. Hopefully that doesn’t squeeze out the people who’re there to actually work and don’t treat their job like it’s all fun and games.

      • Yeats
      • 8 years ago

      [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOL0rMBdNKw[/url<]

      • ImSpartacus
      • 8 years ago

      You’re making the assumption that their pay will increase enough.

      In the ideal world, this would be true and everyone would be happy. But I’m not convinced that will actually happen.

      Foxconn jobs are already pretty good as far as Chinese factory jobs go. I remember seeing a story about the Foxconn campus. There were signed that advised citizens to never pay anyone for a Foxconn job. If such scams are that prevalent, a Foxconn job must be pretty damn good.

    • Meadows
    • 8 years ago

    Oh, now. I did not expect this.

    • Decelerate
    • 8 years ago

    By western standards 8$ sounds like a burger, at most. However in some countries 1$ would buy you very decent breakfast, lunch and dinner with some change left over.

    I’m not saying Foxconn is as clean as Mother Theresa, but people should judge issues based on the local reality.

      • Yeats
      • 8 years ago

      But… if we did that, how could we dial up the moral outrage?

      • dpaus
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]in some countries 1$ would buy you very decent breakfast, lunch and dinner with some change left over[/quote<] Can you name one? And provide some authoritative links to substantiate this? I ask because this same comment was made in another discussion about a week ago. Sweatshopking, who has recently spent some time in Malawai - surely one of the poorest nations on earth - said that $1 there wouldn't even buy a single meal, let alone a day's worth of food.

        • Deanjo
        • 8 years ago

        Well just to put some perspective on this, one of my programmers who is from China came back from visiting family just a few weeks ago. He had some coins from there and one was about the size of a quarter, when I asked what does that amount to on the currency conversion he said about 12 cents Canadian. That was fine until he told me in China he could purchase 24 “expensive import Budweisers” with that coin.

        I’m definitely drinking in the wrong continent.

        PS, Last year I stayed at a 5 star hotel in their largest most luxurious suite in Ukraine. $225 Canadian all inclusive a night. That gets you a economy room in Canada at a normal run of the mill hotel.

          • PenGun
          • 8 years ago

          HUH? Rates at Nanaimo Best Western run around $120 with internet and regular trimmings. Vancouver is about $40 more for the same thing.

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            Best West is hardly a 5 star hotel but never the less here regular week day economy class is $160 without even a complimentary breakfast.

        • Anomymous Gerbil
        • 8 years ago

        I’d be keen to hear more, but it seems likely he wasn’t buying his food from the same places that a (relatively/absolutely) poor local person would?

        • Decelerate
        • 8 years ago

        Simple google search: [url<]http://www.into-asia.com/thailand/costs.php[/url<] Basically most of south-east asia and China. As soon as you're out of the big towns the fares crumble. Don't forget, many/most of Foxconn workers are immigrant workers from the rural areas.

        • Bensam123
        • 8 years ago

        Yeah, if you go to countries where it’s not even profitable to ship food around it’s going to be quite a bit more expensive because you’re essentially buying a luxury item.

        The country has to have an established infrastructure and be remotely close to first world, like China.

        • ImSpartacus
        • 8 years ago

        Tourist markup is a bitch.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, there aren’t a lot of people who put economies into perspective. They just look at the dollar amount and call foul regardless.

      • Malphas
      • 8 years ago

      “However in some countries 1$ would buy you very decent breakfast, lunch and dinner with some change left over”

      No it wouldn’t, ha ha. Unless you like eating plain boiled rice for every meal (which is what the diet of people that live on a dollar a day is actually like).

    • mattthemuppet
    • 8 years ago

    wow, just $8 in labour. That’s incredible. Admittedly that’s just the labour costs of assembly, not necessarily the labour of making the parts (presumably included in the $188 parts bill), but it’s still a tiny fraction of the final price.

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      Actually the labour part seems kind of high. You could assemble something like an iPhone or iPad in a couple of minutes. It’s not like they are hand soldering each component.

        • mattthemuppet
        • 8 years ago

        hmm, according to the video that I watched of the FLA tour, it appeared that each iWhatever took ~2 days to assemble on multiple lines. Obviously, the time spent at each station is short, but overall I think the time per item is a bit longer than a couple of mintues.

        Plus, I’ve stripped and reassembled an iPhone 4 and it took considerably more than a couple of minutes, even with my relatively unskilled hands 🙂

          • Deanjo
          • 8 years ago

          OK I should have said “a few minutes” instead of “a couple”. Replaced the screen in mine in a half hour from disassembly to reassembly and I did it once, not a repetitive task over and over where you are aware of all the tricks to putting it together.

            • mattthemuppet
            • 8 years ago

            like I said, I’m just going off what was on the FLA video posted on TR last week or the week before that. They appear to be using a standard labour biased linear production line, where each station adds a single component (screen, camera, dock connector etc) before moving the product onto the next station until it’s completed, whereupon it’s cleaned, then tested, then cleaned, then packaged and so on. Clearly, each person at a station will be doing 1000s of these actions a day, but per product the assembly time is pretty high. It’s the complete opposite of automated assembly, which makes sense given how cheap the labour is.

            As an aside, I’ve worked in a lot of factories (food mostly, not electronics) and I can comfortably say that a sandwich takes a minute or 2 to assemble. It’s hard to imagine a phone taking the same amount of time 🙂

            • EtherealN
            • 8 years ago

            [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U6HjbGCtqE[/url<] Something like 5 minutes, it looks like. 🙂 Given, there's some cuts involved, but here it's one person doing everything, not an "assembly line" approach of repeatedly doing the same maneuver (which would give more efficiency since you'll not have to switch tools, parts etcetera mid-work). Remember, there's a difference between the time it takes for a unit from start to finish of the production line, and the time spent doing actual work on the unit. It might be 2 days from the first part being attached to the finished unit being sent to the warehouse for dispatch, but I'd expect that most of this time is spent waiting in batches for it's turn at the next stage of assembly.

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            Yup, that’s what I was getting at.

            • mattthemuppet
            • 8 years ago

            ah jeez, watch the fricking video of the Foxconn factory

            [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRBRdatmQhI[/url<] I'm not talking about how much time it would take one person to make one iPhone, I'm talking about how much time an iPhone would take to make IN THE FACTORY, which is the whole point of the news post, no? Is there anyway I can get that across more clearly? If you watch the video, they're very clearly made using an assembly line approach (as I've pointed out, I've worked in more factories that I would have cared to). I know that there's a difference between batch time and individual time. Perhaps the more pertinent point would be that, although lots of iPhones are being made in any given moment at the factory, it takes A LOT of people to make that many phones. Many people, even at relatively low wages = lots of labour. Hence my original point that $8 doesn't seem much for the labour cost of assembly.

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            A sandwich in 2 minutes? Don’t ever go into the deli business, you will go broke.

            • mattthemuppet
            • 8 years ago

            don’t ever misread people’s posts, you will miss the point. I was talking about a FACTORY line, duh. I’ve also worked in plenty of restaurants, which is clearly, self-evidently, a different environment (smacks forehead).

            talk about a classic internet argument

    • Vasilyfav
    • 8 years ago

    See guys.

    Trickle down economy works!

      • shank15217
      • 8 years ago

      The trickle part certainly does..

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      Yay… Gosh gollie’ jee sir, I get a wholleeee nickel for every iPad Apple sells, I know it’s true sir! They aren’t sitting on a 100b$ cash pile or anything.

    • PrincipalSkinner
    • 8 years ago

    Foxconn == Modern day slaver.
    They were so kind to their employees they installed anti-suicide nets.

      • Beelzebubba9
      • 8 years ago

      …only on the internet would a voluntary job that pays above the average wage where’s located would be considered slavery.

      Sigh.

      • wingless
      • 8 years ago

      It is not slavery when you pay people and they free to quit their job whenever they want. The workers are taken advantage of, but not enslaved. It is just an extremely crappy place to work…

        • shank15217
        • 8 years ago

        slav·er·y
        noun /ˈslāvərē/ 

        The state of being a slave
        – thousands had been sold into slavery

        The practice or system of owning slaves

        A condition compared to that of a slave in respect of exhausting labor or restricted freedom
        – female domestic slavery

        Excessive dependence on or devotion to something
        – slavery to tradition

        First read the definition, Foxconn is a slave labor camp, they don’t follow Chinese labor laws, they mistreat and severely underpay their employees. Apple is a big part of this system, as they are the largest purchaser. If they had any moral core, they would pay Foxconn much more for their parts and in turn force Foxconn to dramatically improve the working condition of workers building Apple products. This is a bullcrap PR move that amounts to nothing. A company with $98B in the bank should feel ashamed of the system they are fostering.

          • EtherealN
          • 8 years ago

          Things aren’t always pretty. Do recall that Foxconn get droves of people turning up in the hopes of landing a job for a reason. People stay for years for a reason.

          Ask yourself this: would the chinese workers involved be better off if Foxconn was not there? The answer is, quite simply, no.

            • shank15217
            • 8 years ago

            This is the quintessential capitalist argument… just cause they have something now doesn’t mean they couldn’t live without it.

            • EtherealN
            • 8 years ago

            You can live without your computer. That does not remove the fact that your life is better with the computer. (I hope, at least, because otherwise you should stop using it. 😛 )

            There’s nothing specifically “capitalist” about that argument, it’s a pure observation. People can live as subsistence farmers as well, but that’s not a reason for them to stay subsistence farmers. YOU can live as a subsistence farmer if you like, you don’t NEED your computers, your job, your cell phone etcetera. You can live without them.

            Yet you don’t. Because you enjoy your life better when you have them.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 8 years ago

            This is a bad argument because better is relative. Having one’s arm broken is better than have a leg amputated, but neither one is good.

            • EtherealN
            • 8 years ago

            True enough, but what is the alternative?

            Look through the history of the world, find a place and time where this stage is not necessary. The only cases where we have had faster development would be something like Germany after the second world war – but that was because it both got a lot of aid AND it already had the required levels of education and expertise in the worlkforce to quickly re-industrialize. When that background does not exist, things take time. The fortunate thing though is that the more of the rest of the world is already properly industrialized, the quicker this happens. It took a full century or more for sweden to industrialize, but South Korea went from sweatshops to being “western” in less than a generation. In Taiwan, if you grow up now, it is fully likely that your parents worked in sweatshops when they were your age, and your grandparents were subsistence farmers – but you are a highly paid technician at a high-tech fab…

            That’s the problem – we see the conditions and want them to be better, but we set the unrealistic expectation that it should become just like it is here immediately. But you can’t go from subsistence farming to fully industrialized “IT-society” in a year. That countries have done this in as little as two decades is impressive on it’s own. China is a different beast than the ROK or Taiwan though since it is quite simply huge. There’s parts of china that are comparable to any american city at all as far as incomes and services go. There’s other parts that are basically unchanged in the last 500 years. And there’s everything else in between – with considerably more than a billion people making this up.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 8 years ago

      Because a job where you sit at a desk, while your body and mind decompose until you are physically ill, and you are paid in a valueless currency that someone else creates more of out of thin air, while 20%+ minimum of that already valueless pay is taken by someone else to spend on things you have no choice in, driving you ever further into eternal public debt…is [i<]not[/i<] slavery? Would I want to be those other "slaves?" No. But I'm not going to sit in an ivory tower just acting like we are so much better that we know what's best for everyone else.

        • Yeats
        • 8 years ago

        What if the ivory tower had suicide nets?

          • OneArmedScissor
          • 8 years ago

          [url<]http://img571.imageshack.us/img571/4879/wininternet.jpg[/url<]

            • Yeats
            • 8 years ago

            Hilarious, +1.

        • Grigory
        • 8 years ago

        One of the finest posts I have read on TR for a long time. Well done.

        • ssidbroadcast
        • 8 years ago

        Best post on TR today.

        • Bensam123
        • 8 years ago

        Aye, funny people don’t think about it, but money is essentially the life blood of the US. If it goes away, we all suffer. Our economy and people are too heavily fortified on the issue of no social services and the ‘american dream’ of somehow becoming a millionaire merely by working hard at McDonalds or another dead end job.

        At least American Idol is on tonight…

        • Silus
        • 8 years ago

        Retarded way of seeing things if you don’t mind me saying so. Especially when you say you don’t want to be in the shoes of the other “slaves”.

        It’s not about knowing what’s best for everyone else, it’s about common sense. You can’t possibly say that 60+ hours a week is “good” for anyone, especially in a job that’s so repetitive and has severe consequences for their health in the long run.

      • Geistbar
      • 8 years ago

      Everybody responding to this so far sounds like they’ve never heard of [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wage_slavery<]wage slavery[/url<] before. Yeah, the point was made in a hyperbolic fashion (it certainly doesn't apply to just Foxconn), and if you interpret it exactly literally it doesn't work, but there is some hidden truth to what was said.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      Wee…. That’s what happens when you work in China. What you think you get cheap products for nothing? Jobs are outsourced for no reason? How much do you think workers in Africa get paid? How about people who are jobless in the US?

      You stand on the lives other people in capitalism.

        • Silus
        • 8 years ago

        Cheap products ? You’re clearly not talking about Apple products…

      • EtherealN
      • 8 years ago

      How about checking up the figures?

      Foxconn suicide rate is noticeably lower than China average.

      Let’s look at the number: there were 17 suicides over (roughly) 1 million workers.
      Here’s some numbers:
      China: 22 per 100k and year
      Japan: 23
      Russia: 21
      Switzerland: 18
      Finland: 17
      Sweden: 13
      USA: 12
      Luxemburgh: 8
      Foxconn: 1.7

      So yeah… Great work. Foxconn employees in china actually have better statistics than most countries. And this isn’t strange, is it? For most people that work there, it’s hard work and (for us) hard conditions. But compared to where they come from, often rural areas with little to no facilities and infrastructure, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s a job where they are actually able to send home money to keep their family eating and their kids (if they have some) in school.

      Everything is relative. What is a shit job for us might be the opportunity of a lifetime for someone over there. Everything depends on whether you grew up in a country where it was normal to afford great food, good clothes, an automobile and an Atari console – or if your lot in life was to grow up subsistence farming in the chinese countryside with little to no prospect of advancement in life.

      EDIT: Reminds me of a case from Mongolia, some Canadian textile company that set up a factory there and came under intense flak for the low wages. What people forgot to check was that these low wages were 7 times the national average in the textile industry and there was medical insurance on top. Basically, what is crap for us might be awesome for someone else, and the developing world has to start somewhere.

      If you think this does not work, take a look at the horribly exploited laborers in the sweatshops in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore… 🙂

        • Silus
        • 8 years ago

        So…you’re comparing the suicide rate of a COMPANY with suicide rates of COUNTRIES ?

        Wow…so much idiocy…

          • EtherealN
          • 8 years ago

          Yes. What do you propose to compare it with?

          Foxconn has more employees than many countries have citizens. In case you didn’t notice, both “employees” and “citizens” are human beings, and we can see that the cohort of “citizen of china and employee of Foxconn” has a lower suicide rate than the cohort “citizens of china”.

          Could compare it to other companies as well, but I don’t see anyone that has put up numbers on that. Also, Foxconn is a special case here due to it’s size – getting suicide rates for Volvo, for example, would be pointless since the cohort would be too small and the error bars would be enormous.

          Is it equally “idiotic” to compare, say, average pay between a COMPANY and a COUNTRY? Strangely, we do this all the time… We also compare suicide rates between professions, between genders, between age groups etcetera, just like we compare salaries between them. This is nothing strange. The confounding factor that can be identified here is the gender/age differences between Foxconn employees and the population of china. Control for that and the suicide rate at Foxconn is still very low. I have seen people want to add controls for location of the individuals, being Chinese major cities, at which point it becomes pretty much just average to China. (Around 5/100k) But I find this spurious since we are not dealing exclusively with “city people” – in fact we are dealing with rural people that recently moved specifically for this job. Performing adequate controls for that is complex.

          But the “worst case” scenario after all practical controls are applied, is that Foxconn employees are still no more likely to commit suicide than their non-Foxconn-employed peers. And they are still a lot less likely to commit suicide than, for example, swedes and americans. (Where I however don’t have data for differentiated cohorts of rural and urban populations.)

          Now, how about you explain why such a study is pointless? And why is it different than looking at, for example, income, accident rates, sick days, mobility etcetera? I’m sure you have an in-depth explanation on the ready and just forgot to include it. 🙂

            • Silus
            • 8 years ago

            How about comparing it to other companies that do the same as Foxconn ? If you don’t have numbers for those, fine…don’t say anything then, but comparing suicide rates of companies to whole countries makes no sense. In a review site where there’s so much emphasis on “Apples to Apples” comparisons, you are comparing Apples to Grapes or something equally different. Still a fruit, but quite far from each other in every possible measure.

            The truth is we don’t know of higher or as high suicide rates in any other company that does what Foxconn does.

            • EtherealN
            • 8 years ago

            But if we have numbers for similar companies, and compare with them, we then still learn nothing – does that mean that all these companies are “good” (relatively speaking) or “bad”? We don’t know, we have not established a baseline, there’s no “background” to compare with, thus the information becomes useless.

            And “the truth is” that we know the average for china is higher. Thus, whatever Foxconn is, we know they’re better than the average of the whole country.

            Let’s take a different example to illustrate my point (and I don’t have time to get the real numbers right now, so I’ll take fictional numbers just for illustrative purposes):
            Let’s say the suicide rate amongst homosexual swedes is 20 per 100k. Now, how are we to know if this is bad or not? Should we compare to the suicide rate of homosexual norwegians? Let’s say that one is 15 per 100k. So does this mean homosexual swedes are indicated to be worse off than homosexual norwegians? Not necessarily – at least not with their sexual orientation being causal factor. What if we then find that suicide rate for all swedes is 20 per 100k, and all norwegians is 10 per 100k. We’d then find that homosexual swedes are not more likely than heterosexual swedes to commit suicide – but in norway, the country that in the first comparison looked to be “better”, the homosexual cohort IS more likely to commit suicide than the control, indicating that something is actually going on.

            Comparisons without a good control is worthless. This is the same for comparing Foxconn with other companies. What if they have the same suicide rate? Does that mean they’re both bad or both good? The answer is, we’d have no clue whatsoever and the whole exercise would have been worthless.

            What you are not understanding is the utility of a control, of having a baseline. You are doing exactly the same thing as the people that scream at “OMG 17 suicides!!!” and don’t understand that this is actually a very low number.

            In computer terms, let’s assume I am about to purchase a new GPU, and I want to know if it’s better than the one I have. So I then compare FPS numbers for the GTX680 and 7970. Do I now know if the upgrade is worth it? No – I need to establish the baseline, which in this case would be my current graphics card. Only comparing the 680 and 7970 tells me only which of the two are better, not anything about the underlying question being investigated.

            Think of it like this:
            Foxconn number gives us the suicide rate of chinese people that are employed by Foxconn.
            China number gives us the suicide rate of the chinese people that are NOT employed by Foxconn. (Not really since it gives us both, but the Foxconn component is small enough to not skew the data beyond manageable error bars.)

            If people that are employed by Foxconn are less likely to commit suicide than people who are NOT employed by Foxconn, we learn something!

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