Taiwanese-owned computer and electronics manufacturing giant, Foxconn, is drawing criticism for its recent spate of suicides. At present, 10 people have committed suicide within the last year—with one of those deaths occurring just hours after company Chairman Terry Gou, bowed in apology over the deaths.
Previously, we have reported on spates of suicides in posts on France Telecom and suicide hotspots like Japan’s Cliffs of Tojimbo and China’s Yangtze River Bridge. Although it’s not totally clear whether the Foxconn suicides can be attributed to copycat behavior among employees, one thing that can be fact-checked is the average number of suicides per year in China’s population as a whole.
According to 2004 World Health Organization estimates, China’s annual suicide rate is 16.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Foxconn employs approximately 800,000 employees. So, one can argue that statistically speaking, the number of recent suicides is actually less than the national average. But due to the quick succession of deaths and the fact that they all share the same employer, one has to ask what role, if any, their workplace played in their deaths. This is what investigators both in China and the U.S. are now attempting to unravel.