India’s Labor Officials Investigating Foxconn’s Hiring Practices

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The Indian government is investigating accusations that Apple iPhone assembly partner Foxconn discriminates against married women. The government has questioned Foxconn executives and is examining documentation from the country.

Late last month, Foxconn was accused of not hiring married women for its assembly plant in India. A June report by Reuters said Apple’s iPhone assembly partner had told its recruiters to reject married women without allowing them to even fill out an employment application.

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A former human resources executive at Foxconn India said the company’s executives instructed third-party Indian hiring agencies not to hire married females. This is because they believe married women miss more work days than single females due to family responsibilities and pregnancies. Another reason said to contribute to the unwritten policy is the fear that jewelry worn by married Hindu women may interfere with production.

The manufacturer occasionally relaxes the rules against hiring married women during labor shortages, such as when Foxconn is preparing for a new iPhone launch. Former Foxconn employees say some hiring agencies even hide a woman’s marital status to help them find employment.

Following the accusations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked for the local government of Tamil Nadu state to investigate.

Reuters reports that a five-member team from the federal government’s regional labor department visited the Foxconn plant in Chennai on July 1, 2024. In addition to interviewing firm executives, the investigators interviewed 40 married women, none of whom said anything about discrimination.

“We are collecting information, and have asked the company to submit documents like company policies, recruitment policies,” regional labor commissioner A. Narasaiah told Reuters. “They told us they are not discriminating.”

Foxconn says it currently has 51,281 workers, of whom 33,360 are women. Foxconn claims that 8% of the women, or approximately 2,750, were married. The company did not supply information breaking that information down into specific departments. 

The investigation team has no plans to question Foxconn’s third-party recruitment staff, even though the accusation claimed that four third-party recruiters had been told not to hire married females.

The allegations come as Indian Prime Minister Modi is trying to encourage women to work. Employers such as Foxconn represent a way out of poverty for these women. The jobs pay $200 per month, and food and living accommodations are included.

While neither Foxconn nor Apple’s official hiring practices discriminate, sources within Foxconn have said that the company unofficially sees married women as having family duties, while also having a greater likelihood of getting pregnant.

Apple hasn’t specifically commented on the investigation, although the Cupertino firm issued the following statement:

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. All of our suppliers in India hire married women, including Foxconn.

Apple is working to move a good portion of its device production out of China and into other countries. As of April 2024, 14% of all iPhones are now manufactured in India.

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