Friday, September 2, 2011

Architecture's Potential Impact on the Worker's of Foxconn

By Jason Skidmore

One of the worst work environments in the world is found at many of the factories owned and operated by Foxconn. The Taiwanese company makes components for many of the gadgets that the world lusts over. This lust has created a demand for products that leaves the company with no choice but to work their employees to the point of exhaustion and/or “replace the workers with robots” according to the Guardian newspaper. The treatment of the employees has been described as “labor camps”. An article by Rueters cites that at least 13 workers committed suicide in 2010 alone. Not only are the work hours unendurable, but the workers usually live close to the factory in dormitories that many of us across the pond wouldn't live in during our early college years. This is life for many of the workers employed by Foxconn. I beg the question, “Can architecture solve this problem and increase the quality of life for these workers?”

The answer to this question in my humble opinion is, “YES!” Architects are suppose to solve problems. The problem at Foxconn is not only a work condition problem, it is a living condition problem. A problem that needs solved. The only solution to this point has been to install nets on the facilities to catch suicidal workers. This is just not a solution to the problem. A problem that with great design can be solved. Imagine life for these people if they loved their surroundings. If they had the amenities available to them that the workers of Google's headquarters have. They may not care to work 18 hours a day in those situations. This is just not the case. These people deserve surroundings that they can enjoy and can lift their spirits every day. A total redesign of the dormitories along with the factory itself might make bring these conditions from darkness into light and in the process save lives. A great article on this issue can be found in Wired's March 2011 edition. The article is entitled, “1 Million Workers. 90 Million iPhones. 17 Suicides. Who’s to Blame?”

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