Employees work at a Foxconn factory in Wuhan, Hubei province. / REUTERS/Stringer

Students from the Xi'an Institute of Technology completed 'voluntary' internships to get course credits

Foxconn has admitted that it violated its own labour policies by using student interns to work night shifts and overtime in the electronic manufacturer’s Chinese factories.

Students from the Xi’an Institute of Technology were forced to work at Foxconn’s Yantai plant assembling Sony’s latest console, the PS4, according to reports from Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily translated by the GamesInAsia website.

Working at the factory is advertised by the school as an “internship” but students said that they simply undertook routine factory work unrelated to their degree. Students who refused to participate would lose six course credits, effectively making it impossible for them to graduate.

Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industries, told the Oriental Daily that all its workers were there voluntarily and could leave any time they want. The Xi’an Institute of Technology also stressed that the arrangement was legal and “mainly about making students learn about society and experience life.”

The Taiwanese manufacturers have since made a statement saying that they had conducted an “internal investigation” at the factory and would be bringing it “into full compliance with our codes and policies”. These include not having student interns work night shifts or overtime.

It’s not the first time that the company has been in trouble for its labour practices. Last year children as young as 14 were found at the same factory in Yantai, and in 2010 worker suicides brought attention to the contractor’s harsh labour conditions.

Terry Gou, the company’s founder, has said that he is having increasing difficulty finding workers.

“The young generation don’t want to work in factories, they want to work in services or the internet or another more easy and relaxed job,” Gou told the Financial times last week.

Foxconn has more than a million employees in China and receives around 90 per cent of its revenue from the sale of electronics. Major clients include Apple, Sony, Google and Dell.