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Indian sends labor officials to grill Foxconn over hiring practices

Mumbai, India

Following accusations that iPhone manufacturer Foxconn discriminates against hiring married women, the Indian government has questioned executives and is studying documentary evidence.

In late June 2024, iPhone assembler Foxconn was accused of refusing to hire married women for its plant in India. Since the accusation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked for the local government of Tamil Nadu state to investigate.

According to Reuters, a five-member team from the federal government’s regional labor department visited the Foxconn plant in Chennai on July 1, 2024. As well as questioning executive officers, the team interviewed 40 married women, none of whom raised concerns 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.”

Narasaiah further said that Foxconn reported currently having 51,281 workers, of whom 33,360 were women. Foxconn further claimed that 8% of the women, around 2,750, were married.

Significantly, the company has not as yet broken down those figures into specific areas. So it has not, for instance, said how many married women work in iPhone assembly, where the accusation says there is discrimination.

Also importantly, the Indian government’s team says it has no plans to question Foxconn’s third-party recruitment staff. The discrimination accusation claims that four such recruiters had told candidates that only unmarried women were eligible.

The alleged practice of denying married women jobs is politically important in India. Prime Minister Modi is trying to encourage women into work, and for those women, employers such as Foxconn represent a way out of poverty.

Neither Foxconn nor Apple’s hiring practices officially discriminate. However, sources within Foxconn said that unofficially, married women were seen to have family duties, and a greater likelihood of getting pregnant.

Apple has not commented on this latest investigation, but did say after the initial accusation that it has worked to stop the practice.

“When concerns about hiring practices were first raised in 2022,” said Apple in a statement, “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,” continued Apple.

Separately, figures from April 2024, show that Apple’s expansion in India, and away from China, is having an impact. Some 14% of all iPhones now come from India, for instance.