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Married women face hiring challenges at Foxconn plants in India

Mumbai, India

Foxconn has been accused of excluding married women from jobs at its main iPhone assembly plant in India, citing their family responsibilities as the reason.

Despite Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to increase women in the workforce, many Indian women still face barriers when seeking employment. A widely held belief that married women are unreliable has prevented this effort from taking off.

A new report from Reuters has discovered that Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn has been telling its recruiting officers to turn away married women before they even set foot on the property.

According to a former human resources executive, S. Paul, at Foxconn India, the company's executives verbally communicate these discriminatory recruitment rules to Indian hiring agencies. Allegedly, married women have higher absenteeism due to family responsibilities and pregnancy compared to unmarried women. Some sources have also suggested that jewelry worn by married Hindu women may interfere with production.

Former Foxconn employees note that this rule is not always enforced; the manufacturer relaxes the rules during labor shortages in high-production periods. Some hiring agencies even help women hide their marital status to secure a job.

Factory jobs, such as one assembling iPhones, are seen as a way out of crippling poverty. The job provides a monthly paycheck of $200, as well as food and accommodations.

By denying married women these jobs, hiring agencies are directly violating both Apple and Foxconn's rules of equal opportunity employment. However, Reuters has found that four of Foxconn's third-party recruiters told prospective candidates that only unmarried women were eligible for assembly jobs.

Apple has opinions on the matter

Foxconn and Apple both point out that they do hire married women. And, Apple has moved to stop the restriction.

"When concerns about hiring practices were first raised in 2022 we immediately took action and worked with our supplier to conduct monthly audits to identify issues and ensure that our high standards are upheld," Apple said in a statement.

"All of our suppliers in India hire married women, including Foxconn," Apple also said.

Foxconn alleges that in its latest round of hiring, about 25% of the women it hired were married. The company didn't provide what that number was or where the women worked.

The practice isn't specifically illegal in India

Ultimately, there are no Indian laws that prevent discrimination against women based on marital status in the private sector. However, there have been previous court cases where a company has had its practices of marital discrimination struck down by the Supreme Court.

The judges in those cases determined there was "nothing to show that married women would necessarily be more likely to be absent than unmarried women."

Foxconn started expanding into India in 2019, especially as Apple has encouraged suppliers to shift manufacturing out of China.

The expansion hasn't gone as well as hoped. Foxconn struggles to get its factories in India to operate efficiently, with employees citing language barriers, culture clashes, and difficulty adapting to strenuous schedules.

However, the company continues to pour money into the manufacturing plants as it seeks to diversify its supply chain.