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Foxconn admits school children worked overtime at China factory to make Alexa devices

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Taiwan’s tech giant Foxconn admitted Friday that school interns had worked overtime and night shifts at a factory in China, blaming “lax oversight” by local management.

The statement by Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics maker which assembles products for Apple and other international brands, came after a newspaper investigation found hundreds of schoolchildren aged between 16 and 18 have been drafted in to make Amazon’s Alexa devices.

Britain’s The Guardian reported that teenagers from schools around the central southern city of Hengyang were asked to work nights and overtime as “part of a controversial and often illegal attempt to meet production targets”.

Representational Image of Alexa.

Foxconn said in a statement it has doubled the monitoring of its internship programme with its partner schools “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 … this is not acceptable and we have taken immediate steps to ensure it will not be repeated.”

The company also admitted “there have been occasions” when the percentage of interns exceeded permitted levels and said it has taken steps to comply with relevant labour law.

Foxconn employs more than one million workers in China and is the largest private employer in the country where cheap labour helped fuel the company’s meteoric rise.

It came under the spotlight several years ago following allegations of employee suicides, labour unrest and the use of underage interns at its factories.

In 2012, Foxconn admitted to illegally employing children as young as 14 on assembly lines at a plant in China, after reports from Chinese media and US-based China Labor Watch.

The company was also criticised for its labour practices following a spate of reported suicides in 2010 that activists blamed on tough working conditions, prompting calls for better treatment of staff.

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