Electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group said on Tuesday that students as young as 14, below the legal working age, were found employed at a company factory in China that has been said to make products for Japanese gaming firm Nintendo.
Foxconn's internal investigation came after a Chinese media report and New York-based China Labor Watch said students from the ages of 14 to 16 were interning at Foxconn's factory in the Chinese coastal city of Yantai. Chinese labor laws prohibit companies from recruiting workers under the age of 16.
In a statement, Foxconn said steps have been made to return the students to their schools, and that the company is carrying out a full investigation in the matter. While Foxconn did not say how many underage workers it had found at the factory, the company did note the interns had been working at the campus for about three weeks.
"We have found no evidence of similar violations in any of our other campuses in China, but we will not hesitate to take immediate action in any campus if any violations are discovered," the company said, adding that Foxconn had apologized to each of the students.
Foxconn, which employs 1.2 million workers in China, regularly recruits students from vocational schools as part of its internship program. In the case of the Yantai factory, Foxconn said it would work with the local government to check that the vocational schools helping to organize the internships are in compliance with company policies and Chinese labor laws.
Labor experts have said Foxconn needs to use student interns because it is facing labor shortages at its different manufacturing facilities in the country.
Last month, China Labor Watch said it found instances of students being forced to intern at another Foxconn factory in China in order to receive school credit. Foxconn, however, denied the claim and said the interns were free to leave the program at any time.
The vocational schools supplying the students are the ones primarily responsible for the incident at Foxconn's Yantai factory, China Labor Watch said in a statement. But the group also faulted Foxconn for not verifying the ages of the interns.
Foxconn's intern programs lasts from three to six months, and interns make up about 2.7 percent of the company's total work force in China, according to the company. Workers previously interviewed said Foxconn's Yantai manufacturing facility assembles products for Nintendo.
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