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Friday, August 20, 2010, 06:35 am PT (09:35 am ET)

Apple partner Foxconn boosts 'entertainment' time to curb suicides

Apple's overseas manufacturing partner has instituted a new strategy that intends to prevent employee suicides by offering more "entertainment" time and cutting overtime work hours.

The Wall Street Journal on Friday described an event held at the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, China, this week in which tens of thousands of employees wore costumes, sang, danced and paraded. The theme for the event was "treasure your life, love your family and care for each other."

An employee said that the change in focus has helped to boost morale, as employees are less stressed and receive more time off from work. A company spokesman said that Hon Hai Precision was "blinded" by its success, and didn't cater to the emotional needs of its young workforce, of which 75 percent is between the ages of 18 and 24. Foxconn is the registered trade name of Hon Hai.

"Unlike the previous generation of workers that regarded work and basic necessities as top priorities in life, post 80s workers don't just work for money," said Louis Woo, special assistant to Hon Hai's chairman. "The new generation of workers is changing China and Hon Hai is changing to meet this new reality."

The company assembles some of Apple's most popular products, including the iPhone and iPad. Its massive factory in Shenzhen holds nearly a half-million workers.

Earlier this year, a number of Hon Hai employees committed suicide — some in a very public fashion, by jumping off of the factory. The company responded by installing safety nets around the facility.



Hon Hai revealed in May that it planned to give a 20 percent pay raise to its employees. Entry-level workers at the company's factory in Longhua reportedly earn just over 900 yuan, or $131.80 U.S. per month before overtime and bonuses.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs spoke on the Foxconn issue in June at the All Things D Conference. He said that his company was "on top of" the matter, and that Foxconn "is not a sweatshop."

"It's a factory, but my gosh, they have restaurants and movie theaters, but it's a factory," Jobs said. "But they've had some suicides and attempted suicides, and they have 400,000 people there, The rate is under what the U.S. rate is, but it's still troubling."