• Thursday, July 25, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Foxconn’s ‘gender discrimination’ in hiring: India human rights body alarmed

The National Human Rights Commission said in a statement that it notified secretary of the Indian labour ministry and the chief secretary of the government of the Tamil Nadu state, seeking detailed report in seven days’ time.

(Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

INDIA’s human rights body on Monday (1) said that it has asked government officials to look into the report of discrimination by Foxconn following a Reuters investigation that found the Taiwan-based Apple supplier has been refusing to give iPhone assembly jobs to married women in the country.

According to Reuters, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said in a statement that it had served notices to the secretary of the Indian labour ministry as well as the chief secretary of the government of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where the major iPhone factory where the alleged discrimination took place is located, seeking detailed report in seven days’ time.

“NHRC observes that the matter, if true, raises a serious issue of discrimination against married women causing the violation of the right to equality and equal opportunity,” the statement said.

Read: Foxconn denying married women jobs? India government alert over report

The investigative report last week triggered a row in various quarters, including television channels, newspaper editorials, and women groups — including those within India’s ruling and opposition parties. The Narendra Modi government also asked Tamil Nadu, which is governed by the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, for a “detailed report”.

Reuters said neither the labour ministry nor Foxconn responded to its requests for comments immediately. A spokesperson of the Tamil Nadu government referred enquiries to its labour department but the latter did not respond.

Read: Foxconn CEO Young Liu gets Padma Bhushan, India’s top civilian award

The Reuters investigation revealed that Foxconn systematically refused to hire married women at its primary iPhone plant in India, arguing that they carry greater family responsibilities compared to unmarried women. Hiring agents and HR sources at Foxconn cited concerns over family duties, pregnancy, and increased absenteeism as justifications for such a policy.

In response to the findings, both Apple and Foxconn acknowledged lapses in their hiring practices in 2022 and stated they had taken steps to rectify them. However, the discriminatory practices outlined by Reuters at the plant in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu occurred exclusively in 2023 and 2024, which neither company addressed in their responses.

According to Foxconn, it “vigorously refutes allegations of employment discrimination based on marital status, gender, religion or any other form”.

Apple said all its suppliers, including Foxconn, recruit married women and “when concerns about hiring practices were first raised in 2022 we immediately took action and worked with our supplier to conduct monthly audits to identify issues and ensure that our high standards are upheld”, the Reuters report added.

In India, law does not stop companies from discriminating in recruitment based on marital status.

The policies of Apple and Foxconn, however, prohibit such practices in their supply chains.

The Indian human rights watchdog said it “noted the fact that gender equality is not only required in the Indian constitution but the international treaty and covenants”.

It also emphasized the necessity for state authorities to ensure that all companies follow the norms and regulations related to labour laws.

(With Reuters inputs)

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