Zhang Xiaojian, a Vice Minister of Human Resources and Social Security, announced Monday that the Chinese government will publish the findings of a probe into the suicides at southern China's Shenzhen plant, which is owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry's Foxconn unit.
Foxconn has come under fire for reportedly poor working conditions. Local media have described the plant as "hellish" and the company recently denied benefits to an employee who appeared to have died from exhaustion after working a pair of long shifts. Thus far 10 employees have killed themselves.
The company has responded by bumping wages, but has since announced that it will also no longer be giving benefits to the families of those who commit suicide.
In a Saturday interview Zhang stated, "The Foxconn incidents are not only a question of labor relations, and there are multiple causes. There are enterprise management problems, the psychological problems of young workers. This was caused by multiple factors."
China is growing particularly concerned about the problems at Shenzhen after a series of strikes hit foreign-owned plants in China's southern region. Zhang and other officials have denied that there have been a "wave" of strikes. Thus far, Honda is among those affected. The striking employees are demanding higher wages and better working conditions.
Meanwhile Foxconn's management has announced their intention to slowly move production away from China due to rising labor costs. The company is planning to potentially build a Taiwanese factory that would replace employees with robots, or move to Vietnam, where labor costs remain cheaper.
Foxconn is also shifting labor to its growing facility across the sea in Mexico. The plant is located in San Jeronimo, Mexico. It employs over 7,600 people and features 1.4-million square feet of workspace. Currently it is largely devoted to manufacturing Dell computers.
Foxconn has only developed a quarter of the land at the location. Francisco Uranga, Foxconn’s corporate vice president and chief business operations officer for Latin America confirmed plans to expand the facility, including the addition of an airstrip to handle Boeing 747 cargo planes.
Could Apple and other companies, whose products are currently manufactured by Foxconn's Beijing or Shenzhen facilities, move their production to Mexico? It is uncertain at this point, but it is clear that Foxconn is taking expansion of its Mexican facility seriously, even as it plans its exodus from China.