Samsung and the Tech Industry's Child Labor Problem

By William Peacock, Esq. on July 15, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Stop me if you've heard this one: tech company's Chinese supplier is caught violating labor laws.

Okay, don't actually stop me. Keep reading. That's better.

This time, it's Samsung. Shortly after announcing an "all clear" in its recent internal labor audit, at least in regards to child labor (there were plenty of other violations, of course), the company is doing a double-take after a watchdog allegedly found multiple instances of Chinese children working for a supplier using fake IDs.

A follow-up by the company found evidence of suspected child labor, which led to the company suspending business with the supplier until the investigation is complete, reports Reuters. Samsung also pledged to cut ties with the supplier permanently if the allegations prove true. But is a mere suspension and possible cut ties with a single subsidiary enough?

China Labor Watch: Internal Audit is an 'Advertisement'

China Labor Watch, the watchdog that uncovered the labor violations, thinks Samsung needs to dig a little deeper. After all, according to Samsung, they've audited the supplier three times since 2013, with the latest happening on June 25 -- none of which turned up signs of child labor. (There were, however, violations of safety laws and overtime regulations.)

According to Reuters, in a June 30 sustainability report, Samsung said that a third-party audit of 100 Chinese suppliers found zero instances of child labor.

Somehow, shortly after Samsung's internal probe, China Labor Watch managed to uncover at least five suspected cases of children working under assumed identities. Workers at the Dongguan Shinyang (a subsidiary of Shinyang Engineering, another supplier) plant told the watchdog that the plant didn't always use the facial recognition system that is supposed to match individuals to their provided ID.

Another interesting note: Samsung declined to comment on whether the subsidiary's actions would affect its relationship with the parent company supplier. (Won't deal with Dongguan Shinyang? How about we open up another subsidiary next door?)

It's an Industry-Wide Problem

Samsung is the goat of the day, but it's far from the first tech company to run into issues with suppliers committing labor violations. Dell had similar issues come to light late last year, reports Apple Insider.

And nobody beats Apple's suppliers: one was caught allegedly using indentured servants to build iPhones in 2013, while another, the infamous Foxconn, had such poor working conditions that it had to hang suicide nets on the outside of its building to keep workers from throwing themselves off of the roof.

Maybe it's time for some industry-wide introspection?

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