Microsoft investigates China child labour report

Microsoft has confirmed that independent investigators will travel to China to inspect the factory of one of its suppliers following allegations of child labour and inhumane working conditions.

Earlier this week, the US-based National Labor Committee published the findings of an investigation into the KYE Systems factory in Dongguan, China, which supplies mice, cameras and other devices to Microsoft.

According to the NLC’s report, underage workers are prevalent on the site and employees are forced to work in "prison-like" conditions and suffer harsh treatment from supervisors.

Microsoft insists that both its own representatives and independent auditors regularly inspect the Dongguan factory, but confirmed that a team was on its way to the site in reaction to the report’s findings.

"We have a team of independent auditors en-route to the facility to conduct a complete and thorough investigation," wrote Brian Tobey, head of manufacturing at Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices unit, in a company blog post. "If we find that the factory is not adhering to our standards, we will take appropriate action."

Tobey added that for the past two years the vendor had required verification and documentation regarding the age of all its workers and discovered "no incidence" of child labour.

In February, PC and handheld device vendor Apple admitted that it had unknowingly used Chinese suppliers which employed underage workers, but insisted that this is no longer the case.

Microsoft was ranked as the 17th most ethical company in the world yesterday by reputation research group Covalence SA. The rankings were once again dominated by technology companies, with IBM, Intel and Cisco securing the top three slots.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media (now Bonhill Group plc) from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The...

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