Western European universities are spending billions on IT equipment, which is allegedly being produced by young Chinese students during internships.
According to a new report by research firm Danwatch, published by human rights organisation GoodElectronics Network, thousands of Chinese students are taking part in internships, working for up to 12 hours a day across five months, with many having to work overtime and night shifts.
The findings come from an investigation conducted at a factory of Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Wistron in Zhongshan, Guangdong, China.
The factory produces servers for various tech vendors, including the likes of Dell, HP and Lenovo, where students who refuse to endure the long hours are denied their diploma.
Experts have described the forced internship programmes as forced labour, and are in violation of the Chinese Labour Law and International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention on forced labour.
Since discovering these illegal acts, HP and Dell have acknowledged the violations, and as a result have temporarily suspended the use of student interns at the factory in China.
One 19-year-old intern described the ordeal at the factory as depressing and that the work is incredibly tiring.
Xu Min said: “We are standing at the assembly line the whole day, doing the same task again and again. It has nothing to do with my education. None of us want to be here. We are all depressed, but we have no choice, because the school told us that if we refused, we would not get our diploma. The work is exhausting.”
It isn’t unusual to hear that companies are taking advantage of student labour, but the fact that these schools are refusing to award these students with their diploma if they do not comply is particularly horrifying.
Now that Dell and HP have recognised that this type of labour is being carried out, hopefully now we will start to see an end to this type of forced labour in the tech industry.
Pauline Overeem, from the GoodElectronics Network, added:“The problem of forced student labour in the electronics industry is widespread in China, Thailand and the Philippines.
“But the case of the Wistron factory in Zhongshan doesn’t stand on its own. It is good to know that HP and Dell take these signals seriously, but it is high time that brands and manufacturers across the board take determined action to ensure decent working conditions without any form of forced labour at their suppliers.”
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