Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Suicides At France Telecom Are 5 Times Higher Than At Foxconn -The Human Cost Of Cheap Bandwidth And Gadgets?

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 26, 2010

Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer of electronics products for Apple and many others, has reported 9 suicides among its workforce and is fighting allegations of being a sweatshop.

It's not the only tech company with a suicide problem, France Telecom's is much higher, with 46 suicides, and now a government investigation.

Both sets of suicides are blamed on work place stress.

The Real Truth Behind Foxconn's Suicide Cluster » M.I.C Gadget

The Foxconn suicide mess is all started from job stress. Within half a year, there are 9 suicides with 7 confirmed-deaths in Foxconn's factory of China, Shenzhen. In order to find out what's really going on in that factory, the Southern Weekly, described by The New York Times as China's most influential liberal newspaper, has sent an amateur reporter to slip into Foxconn's factory to pretend as a worker and the mission is to find out the truth of the suicide cluster.

FT.com / UK - Fresh probe on France Telecom suicides

The Paris prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into allegations of "workplace harassment" at France Telecom following a spate of suicides at the company, it emerged yesterday.

The former monopoly is also being investigated for failing to document properly the health risks facing its employees.

...In 2008 and 2009, 35 of the company's employees committed suicide, laying bare a deep crisis in morale among its 100,000-strong French workforce. The crisis has continued, with a further 11 employees taking their own lives since the beginning of 2010.

Stéphane Richard, France Telecom's new chief executive, told the Financial Times last month that there would probably be further suicides.

Is this the price of progress? Will we see suicides increase at other companies too?

The global work force, whether in China or France ... or in the US, is under ever increasing pressure to become more productive, and companies are forced to get rid of workers that can't keep up with the pace of production.

Laws that protect employees from losing their jobs aren't a good solution, as shown in France. French employers will sometimes make life unpleasant for staff, hoping they will leave.

I met with France Telecom executives in December in Paris. They showed me an impressive number of gadgets and services, including a 3-in-1 plan that included landline phone, cable TV, and mobile phone -- for 30 Euros a month, about $36!

I said it is impossible for me to get just one of those services for that price in the US. It just shows the intense competition for business in France.

It raises the question whether cheap bandwidth and low cost gadgets are the worth the cost in human lives--not to mention the huge amount of suffering in these work places that goes unreported.


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