HP sets rules for student labor in China

Feb. 8, 2013 at 2:30 PM
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BEIJING, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Electronics giant Hewlett-Packard said it had imposed strict limits on student labor in China, a subsection of labor fraught with abuses.

HP may have taken its cue from Apple, which recently said it would monitor student labor at its supplier production plants in China. But HP is going a step further, instructing suppliers that student labor must be voluntary in nature and students must have a reprisal-free grievance process to use when necessary, The New York Times reported Friday.

HP is also mandating suppliers limit student labor to no more than 20 percent of their workforce during peak demand periods and that students working at plants must be given jobs that compliment their studies.

The company's plan is to reduce the limit of student workers to 10 percent of the workforce in the future but its managers haven't decided when that would take place.

In China, a labor shortage has been intensified by the government's one-child policy which controlled population growth in the 1980s and 1990s.

In response, students have been put to work in factories. But they can be ordered to do so by their schools where suppliers pay school administrators for their help. The complaints include short notice for work orders, long hours and placement into jobs that have nothing to do with their studies. The schools continue to receive tuition while students are working, the Times said.

The work orders sometimes come from local governments. Sometimes students are given no choice when a work assignment is given, said the director of a labor rights advocacy group.

"This sometimes even involves forced labor, which is absolutely against the corporate social responsibilities of companies like Apple and HP," said Institute of Contemporary Observation director Liu Kaiming.

"We're doing this because we think this is an important issue, and there are certainly concerns around it and some ambiguity around the appropriate standards," Tony Prophet, HP's senior vice president for worldwide supply chain operations, told the Times.

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