This is what it’s like to work at the Foxconn factory: You enter a five- or six-story concrete building, pull on a plastic jacket and hat, and slip booties over your shoes. You walk up a wide staircase to your assigned floor, the entirety of which lies open under unwavering fluorescent light. It’s likely that your job will require you to sit or stand in place for most of your shift. Maybe you grab components from a bin and slot them into circuit boards as they move down a conveyer. Or you might tend a machine, feeding it tape that holds tiny microprocessors like candy on paper spools. Or you may sit next to a refrigerator-sized machine, checking its handiwork under a magnifying glass. Or you could sit at a bench with other technicians placing completed cell-phone circuit boards into lead-lined boxes resembling small kilns, testing each piece for electromagnetic interference.
If you have to go to the bathroom, you raise your hand until your spot on the line can be covered. You get an hour for lunch and two 10-minute breaks; roles are switched up every few days for cross-training. It seems incredibly boring—like factory work anywhere in the developed world.
You work 10 hours or so, depending on overtime. You walk or take a shuttle back to your dorm, where you share a room with up to seven other employees that Foxconn management has selected as your bunkmates. You watch television in a common room with bench seating, on an HDTV that seems insultingly small compared with the giant units you and your coworkers make every day. Or maybe you play videogames or check email in one of the on-campus cybercafes, perhaps sharing a semiprivate “couple’s booth” with a girlfriend or boyfriend.
In the morning, you clean yourself up in your room’s communal sink or in one of the dorm’s showers, then head back to the production line to do it all over again.