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China Times: Don't play up suicide stories

China Times: Don't play up suicide stories

Hours after Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou visited the company's factory complex in China's Shenzhen, another Foxconn worker jumped to his death there, the 12th suicide attempt in recent days at the complex. China's state-run Xinhua news agency said the incident underlines the need for China to slow down its economic development.
Xinhua might be right, but what we are concerned about is that the tragedy should not be exaggerated by the mass media.
Foxconn, which employs more than 800,000 workers in China, is China's top exporter, contributing up to 4 percent of China's total annual exports. It is a typical company thriving on China's cheap labor and low added-value products.
Computer giant Apple is one of Foxconn's biggest customers, paying Foxconn US$11.2 each for assembling its iPads, or 2 percent of the iPad's minimum retail price of US$499. With such small profits, Foxconn cannot afford to offer attractive pay to its workers.
In spite of the news of the suicides, thousands of people are lining up to apply for jobs at Foxconn, which highlights the fact that the company is seen as a desirable employer.
The 12 people who jumped were aged between 18 and 25, which is the typical age of people who copycat suicide attempts. As a responsible entrepreneur, Gou cannot sit on his hands, and he has tried to stop the jumpers, but what can he really do to turn the tide? According to China's mass media, there are 12 suicides for every 100,000 people in that country, which makes the Foxconn attempts lower than average.
A study shows that suicides are two to three times more common in rural China than in urban areas, but the problems in the countryside do not draw the widespread attention garnered by the series of suicides at the Foxconn complex.
In order to stem the suicides, Gou promised to retain psychological consultants and increase salaries for Foxconn workers, but Foxconn management should also study how to treat workers as people rather than like machines on an assembly line.
On the other hand, the workers should learn to relish their own lives and realize that they are more important than any job or miserable situation.
The mass media should either refrain from playing up the suicide stories to woo audiences or shoulder a share the blame if the suicide tide does not recede. (May 28, 2010) (By Maubo Chang)




Updated : 2021-04-12 03:06 GMT+08:00