When Suicide Pays

A number of readers have written in about the headline-making suicides by employees at Foxconn, a huge Chinese company that manufactures electronics and computer components. (The fact that the Foxconn suicide rate seems to be below the national average seems to have escaped most scrutiny.) That said, workers at Foxconn’s plants reportedly face stressful working conditions in locations that, for some workers, are far from their homes (as is the case with much labor in China). But there may be a monetary incentive for the act as well: according to the Telegraph, Foxconn pays the families of the deceased ?11,000, or the equivalent of 6 to 10 years’ of salary. The company has announced a 30-percent pay hike, but its plan to stop the suicide payouts altogether has apparently been derailed by media attention. [%comments]


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  1. george jung says:

    “Dear, we haven’t hit the lottery, but I have a plan B….”

    Someone in management wasn’t paying attention, it seems.

    Your comments on the suicide rate are confusing – on the one hand, lower than national rates, but….. higher than similar industries? Or is this just an opportunity to boost salaries, and pass the increased cost on to consumers (something the media has told us is coming, regardless. See the recent story on Japanese manufacturing in China)?

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  2. frankenduf says:

    similar to minority report, where the faux bad guy is promised $$ for his family if cruise takes him out

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  3. MT says:

    “The company has announced a 30-percent pay hike, but its plan to stop the suicide payouts altogether has apparently been derailed by media attention.”

    But isn’t that precisely what should happen? Foxconn should increase its worker’s wages while they’re living, and not incentivize them to kill themselves.

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  4. AaronS says:

    It came to me that if we could just talk suicidals into taking those that really deserve it with them, we could start cleaning up the world.

    Instead, many suicides kill an ex-wife or, God forbid, their own children, in a last, despondent act. Not only is their legacy besmirched by being a suicide (that is still not very accepted), but it is forever tarnished by the hateful acts that went with it.

    Ah, but if a suicidal person decided to take out the drug kingpin (all the time assuming he would be killed in the act–which is precisely what he would want, one would think), then not only does he go out NOT as a suicidal, but as a noble vigilante, but he also goes out as having went to his death performing some service for mankind.

    There ought to be a club….

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  5. Wonks Anonymous says:

    Public suicide is a political act of protest against an oppressive regime.

    These suicides appear to have had some positive impact on the working conditions of the workers who remain alive and to have brought some economic benefits to the families of the workers who killed themselves.

    It would be interesting to see some real economic discussion of the motivations and incentives for altruistic acts like political suicides. Instead we are treated to a snarky little essay telling us how wonderful the company these folks worked for is.

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  6. Lord says:

    I wonder if they are like large American companies where it is up or out. The alternatives may be much worse than their current position.

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  7. Sebastien says:

    This thing about the comparison with the national average is quite interesting. There was the same story with France Telecom in France, at the end of 2009(see for example The Economist, http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_TQVRRTDQ, under paywall, or France 24: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrbeMFpJ_4U).
    The article of the Economist from October 2009 was saying
    “The French suicide rate is 14.6 per 100,000 people, according to the OECD. Men are particularly prone: 22.8, against 7.5 for women. This puts the suicides over 20 months at France Telecom, which employs just over 100,000 people, in line with the national average.”

    Yet, every time there was a suicide in the firm, it made the headlines in the news.

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  8. Eric M. Jones says:

    I encourage suicides for those making bonuses of over $1,000,000 per year. Or is that just my commie Grandmother speaking through me?

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