Chinese school children worked overtime and night shifts to produce Amazon’s smart speakers, UK’s Guardian newspaper reported on Friday (August 9). The company is reportedly investigating the claim
“Schoolchildren in China have been recruited to work in factories to produce Amazon’s Alexa devices as part of an often illegal attempt to meet exacting production targets for the smart-speaker products,” the Guardian report said, citing interviews with children and leaked documents from Amazon’s supplier Foxconn.
The children had recruited from local schools in Hengyang, China, and were classed as “interns”, with teachers paid to accompany them to work.
The Gaurdian said that when Foxconn was confronted with proof of the activities, it admitted employing children to work overtime and nights. The company, which also makes iPhones for Apple, said it had taken “immediate action to fix the situation”.
The students who were involved in making Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo and Echo Dot devices along with Kindles have been reportedly required to work for more than two months to supplement staffing levels at the factory during peak production periods, the Guardian found. More than 1,000 pupils are employed, aged from 16 to 18.
Amazon said the company would not tolerate violations of its supplier code of conduct and regularly assessed suppliers, often using independent auditors, to monitor compliance and improvement.
“If we find violations, we take appropriate steps, including requesting immediate corrective action,” an Amazon spokesperson reportedly said.
“We are urgently investigating these allegations and addressing this with Foxconn at the most senior level. Additional teams of specialists arrived on-site yesterday to investigate, and we’ve initiated weekly audits of this issue,” Amazon said.
Teenagers who spoke to the Guardian researchers said the factory work has no relevance to their courses and they have been pressed into working overtime.
Chinese factories are allowed to employ students aged 16 and older, but these schoolchildren are not allowed to work nights or overtime.
Closer home, In India Amazon was pulled up over concerns of child labour in 2017. The country’s apex body for child rights, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), had sent a notice to the ecommerce giant following a customer’s complaint about the employment of children for door-to-door delivery.
India’s anti-child labour law prohibits the engagement of children under 14 in all occupations and those between 14 years to 18 years in hazardous occupations and processes.