A Case Study of the Foxconn Suicides An International Perspective to Framing the Sweatshop Issue

A Case Study of the Foxconn Suicides: An International Perspective to Framing the Sweatshop Issue





The analysis done by the anti-sweatshop movement concerning the western mainstream media changed the perception of North American and European consumers towards the treatment of the laborers in the sweatshop-prone countries (Guo, Hsu, Holton and Jeong, 2012). The consumers discovered that western transnational corporations subjected workers in countries such as India and China to very deprived working situations. Low pay, discriminative treatment, and perilous environments characterized the working conditions better known as ‘sweatshop’. Suicide cases stirred up much ado about the sweatshop practices. However, the media chose to cast a blind eye to the major underlying problems of global social injustice and features of the global economy. Worldwide labor unions and various activists struggled to uncover the sweatshop issue but there was insignificant change. The labor practices in these companies had a negative impact on human rights and also reduced the rate of social and economic development. Social actors, such as the government, activists and international organizations gave their versions of the story. They wanted the public to get their opinion of the story. The news media have a significant role in presenting biased information. The Foxconn suicide is an example of an example of a global sweatshop issue that presented an ethical dilemma in the news media. The issue enveloped various issues such as global justice and human rights. Many individuals claim that the issue revealed ethical dilemmas in news media. The issue affected many stakeholders of the Foxconn group because the media gave different information regarding the events that took place. The analysis of the Foxconn suicide reveals various issues surrounding the sweatshop matter.

The Foxconn suicide is a global issue because of the controversial reports made by the media. Fourteen employees committed suicide in a span of thirteen months. The news media of the United States reported that the incident occurred in China, so they have no answers concerning the reasons why the individuals committed suicide. They claim that China should remain accountable because the employees who committed suicide were Chinese and not Americans. They framed China for the case, yet the two countries participated in running the Foxconn Group. They blamed the poor living conditions on the economy of the country and not the ethics of the organization. The ethical dilemma of the news media arises because the media did not acknowledge that the Foxconn group was a sweatshop. The employees provided cheap labor without any increment in their salaries. The worked under harsh working conditions and no one bothered to address their issues. Many people rely on the media to get news, so the media took advantage of this fact to provide information that favored each end of the social actors. The media should provide unbiased information to the public and should not give varying reports that favor significant parties. The United States media did not reveal the problems faced by the workers in the Foxconn group. They wanted the whole world to believe that the social and economic instability in China enhanced the deaths of the employees. The media also highlighted the issues facing the country, to cover up the inappropriate working conditions. The United States media linked the murder with the poverty level in the country and claimed that the Foxconn group had nothing to do with the suicide.

The news media use the deontological theory to address the issue of the Foxconn suicide. The deontological theory suggests that people should follow identified rules while performing their tasks. The news media gave reports that favored each social actor. When approached by the activists, they claimed that the Foxconn group was a sweatshop. The United States government framed China for the suicide. This made the media reveal the poverty in China. They highlighted other issues that enhanced the suicides to remove the United States government from the blame. The news media obeyed the rules made by the social actors because each of them had a significant role in the country. The news media also followed the utilitarian theory because they wanted to present news that would bring change to the lives of various individuals in the China. They presented the poor living conditions of the Chinese people to make the government address the issue. The breach also aimed at reducing the number of sweatshops in the region. The breach had an impact on the workers of the Foxconn Group and other sweatshops because consumers did not want to associate themselves with their products. The news media used these two theories because they had to obey the rules and also help many people in marginalized areas.

The ethical breach had direct or indirect impacts on various stakeholders. Steve Jobbs, a significant stakeholder of the company, claimed that the company was not a sweatshop. This statement had an immense impact on his company, Apple. Activists in China and the United States revealed that the company was a sweatshop. The deaths of the employees also acted as evidence against the claims of Steve Jobbs. His statement was controversial and seemed to favor the Foxconn group because portraying a negative impact of the group would affect the relationship of the two companies. The news media publicized Jobb’s statement and people had various opinions. Jobbs statement had a negative impact on the employees of his company and those of the Foxconn group. The breach made the employees believe that the two companies did not care about their welfare. The top most officials had more concern about the future of their businesses than they had about that of the employees. The breach also encourages more deaths of employees because they believe that their companies have no concern about their welfare. The breach also had a negative impact on the customers of Apple. Customers may not feel comfortable using products made by people who have no human rights. Apple products are expensive, so the employees should also benefit from the profits of the company. The perception of the customers will also affect the sales of the two companies.

The government plays a significant role in ensuring companies pay their taxes and making laws that enhance the progress of the company. The ethical breach also has an impact on the governments of the two countries. The governments of the two countries failed to play their full role in running of the Foxconn Group. The world develops a negative view of the United States government because they failed to address the issues affecting the Foxconn employees. The United States played a significant role in running the Foxconn Group. The government had the responsibility of ensuring that the workers had an appropriate working environment. The United States government claimed that the issues happened in China, so the government of China should take the blame. The Chinese government also neglected the human rights of the Foxconn group employees. The ethical breach also had a negative impact on the Chinese government because they portrayed it as a failed government. The Chinese left the rural areas to work in companies such as the Foxconn group because they wanted to survive. This meant that the government of China made insignificant efforts to develop the rural areas. These people were desperate for jobs, so they did not care about the working conditions. They felt that they could persevere but when they realized that even work places cannot solve their problems, they opted for suicide. This issue portrays a negative picture of the Chinese government and the companies in China. The ethical breach made people believe that all companies in China misuse manpower to make profits, although this may not be the case. The local authorities must ensure that companies follow laws and regulations required by the law. The breach also had a negative impact on the local authorities because the whole world knows that they did not follow up on the activities of the company and the way they treated their employees. The local authorities had they responsibility of presenting the issues facing the workers to the judiciary. The employees committed suicide because they felt that there was no one who cared for their welfare. They believed that the government and the local authorities played an insignificant role in changing their situation.

The breach had a positive impact on the employees of the Foxconn Group. Activists painted an awful picture of the company through the media. They claimed that the group was a sweatshop company, so the company had to take several measures to protect its name. The company identified the characteristics of a sweatshop company and decided to eliminate them from their group. They increased the salaries of their employees to make people believe that the suicides were not linked to the Foxconn Group. They also gave their employees psychological assistance to discourage other employees from committing suicide. They also introduced no-suicide contracts and worker rallies, and placed safety nets around their buildings. According to Steve Jobbs, Foxconn Group made these efforts to prevent suicide cases, but the number of suicides still increased.

Ethical decision making is a process that requires analysis of ethical rules, principles and virtues (Trevino and Nelson, 2004). It also requires maintenance of relationships to guide the decision-making process. People should make ethical decisions when faced with dilemmas. Structuralism, phenomenalism and constructivism are aspects that enhance ethical decision making (Kohlberg and Colby, 2010). Structuralism suggests that people should analyze behavioral patterns that influence the actions of an individual or group. Phenomenalism is an approach that considers the subjects point of view when making decisions while constructivism is about creating new meanings from the situation at hand. Everyone, including individual violators, is accountable for disobedience of ethics, but prosecutors should consider the factors that led to the act. People have various reasons behind their actions, so the ethical process involves a number of steps to make efficient decisions. The steps include problem identification, collection of relevant information, evaluation and analysis of alternatives, decision making, implementation and review of the action. The decision makers may consider the consequences of the actions to determine the purpose of the violation. They may also consider the entitlements of the subjects or distributive and procedural justice.

All organizations have a corporate social responsibility. The have discretionary responsibilities that require them to be noble corporate citizens. They should contribute resources that improve the quality of lives of the people in the community. Organizations also have ethical responsibilities that compel them to engage in actions that cause no harm. They should make just and fair decisions. They also have a legal responsibility of obeying the law, so they should go by the rules of the country. All organizations have economic responsibilities that make them profitable. Economic responsibility is the foundation of all organizations. The Foxconn Group neglected some of these responsibilities. They neglected the ethical responsibility by unjust decisions that led to harm. The inappropriate working conditions contributed to the deaths of their employees.


The news media has a significant role in the economic development of a country. The news presented by the media may have a positive or negative impact on the progress of a company. The news media also use various theories when they reveal issues to the public. Social actors also have a significant role in the news media operations. The government, activists and international organizations are significant figures in a country, so the news media has to follow most of what they say. Disobedience may have an immense impact on the media house. Sweatshops still exist in the modern world. Many companies misuse the human labor force to make huge profits. They humiliate their employees and give them low salaries because they know that these people have no voice or choice. They also discriminate against some employees and have inappropriate working conditions. Some shareholders are also inconsiderate of the welfare of the employees. Deontological, consequentialism and utilitarianism are theories that enhance decision-making. The deontological theory suggests that people should follow rules. Utilitarianism advises people to do things that have a positive impact on the majority while consequentialism urges people to concentrate on matters that will have beneficial endings. People should consider various aspects when making decisions to benefit the society. They should analyze the factors that lead to a subject’s behavior, the point of view of the subject and the societal norms. Individual violators should face the consequences of their actions. No one should violate the ethics of an organization for personal benefits. Ethical decisions are vital because some have a direct or indirect impact on the society. It requires adequate analysis of various aspects that trigger violation. All decision makers must follow the ethical decision-making process to ensure that the subject gets fair judgmental organizations have a social corporate responsibility that enhances their progress. The scrutiny of individual and organizational violators has the same steps. The discretional, ethical, legal and economic responsibilities assist the companies to meet various goals. Companies that fulfill these responsibilities attract many clients. The Foxconn Group should admit their mistakes and work towards improving the situation in the company. They should think about the future of their company. Once they admit their mistake, the consumers may react negatively to the news, but will appreciate the efforts made by the company to remove itself from the sweatshop category. If they continue to deny the fact, people will struggle to look for aspects that link them with sweatshops. This will make consumers continue to reject their products.


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