Suicide Pact: China Factory Combats Rash of Suicides By Having Workers Sign Agreement Not to Kill Themselves

There has been global criticism of a Chinese factory making Apple products after a rash of suicides and complaints that workers are paid little and worked hard. Finally, Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. has acted: it has had workers sign that they would not kill themselves. It is a major breakthrough since overworked employees may be willing to take their lives but they would think twice before breaking a contract in China.

The Taiwanese company operates a huge factory complex in the southern city of Shenzhen. The company employs 300,000 people in the China’s Pearl River Delta. Foxconn has had eleven suicides recently.

By signing the pledge, workers agree not to commit suicide and to seek medical help, if necessary, in a mental or physical hospital. This is not the only reform, however. The company has begun to hang nets around factories to stop people from throwing themselves off buildings.

One possible spin for the pledge is that it creates a record that employees were aware of the availability of mental health assistance for liability purposes. However, workers have little ability to sue in China — which is why companies like Apple flock to the country for its low wages, health costs, and environmental costs. It is surprising that Apple has been relatively slow in responding and that the backlash against the company has been so muted given the earlier controversies involving Nike.

Presumably, Foxconn will also stop playing its soundtrack below for workers waiting to see health care specialists:

For the story, click here.

32 thoughts on “Suicide Pact: China Factory Combats Rash of Suicides By Having Workers Sign Agreement Not to Kill Themselves”

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  2. “Employees in violation of the no-suicide pact may be subject to the death penalty”.

  3. I found the reference.


    “In the compound, at a factory devoted to computer motherboards, young men and women stood at assembly lines, their feet shod in blue slippers and white caps on their heads.

    The smell of solvent hung in the air. About 80 per cent of the front-line production staff worked standing, some for 12 hours a day, six days a week, said Liu Bin, a 24-year-old employee.

    “It’s hard to make friends because you aren’t allowed to chat with your colleagues during work,” he said at Shenzhen Kang Ning Hospital, where he was seeking help for insomnia.”


    72 hours per week breathing a chemical in the air. That chemical (solvent vapors) may, or may not, be causing neurological damage. It depends on which solvent they’re breathing for that extended period of time. In any case, this cannot be described as “a good working environment.” There are multiple problems there, but good air quality should be every human’s right. That’s a problem they can address for pennies on the dollar. I’ll be glad to pay more for what I buy if it will improve quality of life for other people.

    Let’s get used to paying the right price for goods, factoring in the human cost as well as the material cost. It’s only fair.

  4. An earlier article I read mentioned a strong chemical smell in the factory. If workers are in a relatively unventilated environment, and exposed to volatiles, they can suffer ‘unexplained’ illnesses. It might only account for a small number of suicides. It is still evidence, however slight, for less-than-satisfactory working conditions, and should be corrected, whatever else is said about it.


    “Foxconn, the manufacturer whose clients include Apple, Dell, and HP, is on the verge of pulling out of China after a spate of suicides. The CEO has accused workers of killing themselves for financial compensation, and the company has stopped suicide payments to suicide victims’ families. Foxconn’s CEO also told investors that it is considering moving its production operations to Taiwan, and automating many parts of its business, a move which could see 800,000 workers lose their jobs.” [emphasis added] from

  6. They certainly don’t Byron. In fact one of my pet hates is those who interpret “To each according to his needs, from each according to his means” as a scroungers charter. It is not. It’s about equel opportunities for all based on merit and ability, no matter what their background.

    Suggest you do a search on the recently closed Tower Colliery in Wales – a story of worker ownership that will warm your heart.

  7. Maaarrghk!:

    personally why shouldn’t a person have a share and say in the company he/she works for? I just don’t agree with socialism, I don’t disagree with workers owning a share of the means of production. Make everyone a capitalist is my motto. But then isn’t that what Marx was saying.

    If you accept that workers should own the means of production then the workers would become capitalists. After all it is called Das Kapital, not Das Sozialismus.

    You guys on the left aren’t interpreting Marx correctly :). Do capitalists have to do everything for you?

  8. A kind of “Workers Co-Operative” Byron?

    I think I must be tripping! 😉

  9. LottaKatz:

    I was listening to business news, I think, on Fox today and Charles Payne a sometime commentator on Bulls and Bears and a Wall St. type said that manufacturing jobs are starting to return to the US. I am not exactly sure why he said this but he did say the job creation had a good rise in manufacturing jobs.

    As you well know I personally think workers ought to have an ownership position in any company that is profitable. It makes good business sense and helps the economy. I also think it rather ridiculous for the owner of a company to make $5, 10, 15, 20 million a year while the receptionist is making 25 thousand. But it is his company, personally I would take a 50% share and distribute the remainder to employees, how much does one person need? But that is my personal opinion and I have no right to dictate to another what is good for them.

    It is as Puzzling says, there is no right to a job or food or shelter. It is up to the individual to determine his own path.

  10. Byron,
    What is wrong with it is that American jobs are migrating to China and other very low wage countries and American workers are being told we need to become competitive with them. It is a desire to turn the world’s working class into nothing more than serfdom while corporate owners become wealthy beyond words.

    “And don’t communist countries predetermined what an individual can do based on the needs of the state?”

    No. Simple economic survival does just as it does here and anywhere that has a loose labor market and too few jobs being created for the working class too fill.

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