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I had a discussion with a friend about the sometimes poor working conditions in China and especially the electronics market. Now what really surprised me was his statement that Apple and other companies installed "Nets to prevent suicide" around their factories. These should basically catch workers that leap off the building because of the poor working condition.

I found some articles about it (Like this one), but most of them don't go into detail about the nets and I feel like these nets could be there for another reason as well. So is this really true? Do Chinese factories really have these nets for that reason or is it for another purpose?

  • Since most advice about suicide discussion centers around NOT talking about past suicides, I would be extremely shocked if there was any actual admittance of that as real reason from Apple (even leaving aside that it'd be bad PR) – user5341 Sep 29 '14 at 15:35
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    Does Apple even have their own factories in China? Aren't they all subcontractors? – gerrit Sep 29 '14 at 17:43
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    @gerrit: Yes, the nets were installed at Foxconn, a manufacturer contracted by Apple. It's probably worth noting that the nets likely prevent people even trying to use that method to commit suicide (why would you bother?), and blunting the use of suicide as a protest at the same time. – Phil H Sep 30 '14 at 11:07
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Foxconn did indeed install "suicide nets". And they worked. It's a well known fact that many people wanting to commit suicide are not thinking straight and can be stopped if anything interferes with their plans. Taking an action that saves lives when it is obvious that this action is opening the company up to attacks by all internet trolls is surely commendable.

To put this into perspective: According to Wikipedia, the suicide rate of Foxconn workers was at all times a lot lower than the average rate in China, and lower than the suicide rate in each of the 50 states of the USA, and actions like suicide nets have improved things further. Also, suicide by jumping from a building is a very rare thing to happen in the USA (2% of suicides), while it seems quite common in China (in Hong Kong more than 50%), so suicide nets would be very unexpected in the USA; gun control is 50 times more effective at preventing suicides. Obviously in the living conditions at Foxconn, suicide by gun or by taking tablets won't work.

There is documentation available in Apple's 2011 "supplier responsibility report" on page 18 https://www.apple.com/supplier-responsibility/pdf/Apple_SR_2011_Progress_Report.pdf Quote: "In August 2010, the independent team presented its findings and recommendations to Terry Gou and senior executives from Foxconn and Apple. The team commended Foxconn for taking quick action on several fronts simultaneously, including hiring a large number of psychological counselors, establishing a 24-hour care center, and even attaching large nets to the factory buildings to prevent impulsive suicides. The independent team also found that Foxconn had worked openly with many outside experts and government officials in reacting to the crisis. Most important, the investigation found that Foxconn’s response had definitely saved lives."

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    How independent is a report ordered by Apple, really? – gerrit Sep 30 '14 at 15:15

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