Last year, labour rights activists shamed Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, into admitting it had employed students forced into internships by their universities in its manufacturing plants. A report by the Beijing Times on Thursday indicates that little has changed since.
The report documented how some 1,000 engineering students were sent by their university in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, to Foxconn Technology Group's Yantai factory some 1,300 kilometres east in Shandong province for mandatory work.
There, the Xi’an Technological University students were forced to work 11 hours per day for a week for the firm which manufactures iPhones. They were allowed ten minutes’ rest in the morning and another ten in the afternoon, according to the report. They were told that they would not graduate if they refused to take the internship.
“With their conscientious work attitude, they have dramatically improved work efficiency,” the university said in a statement on Wednesday.
The group of 45 students had proven its ability to “endure hardship and work hard,” the statement read.
Students told the Beijing Times that their jobs did not serve any educational purpose.
One student said he had to put stickers on Sony PlayStation game consoles, while another said he had to pack PlayStation user manuals and cables into boxes.
Schools were required to submit assurances that internships are voluntary, Foxcon said in a statement to the South China Morning Post on Thursday. The company also does not allow interns to do overtime work or night shifts.
"It is the schools that recruit the students under the supervision of the relevant local government", the company said.
Foxconn has conducted an internal investigation into the allegations, finding that there have been a few instances where our policies pertaining to overtime and night shift work were not enforced," the company said, adding that "immediate actions have been taken to bring that campus into full compliance with our code and policies."
The company also known as Hon Hai Precision Industries has, like many other manufacturers, experienced labour shortages as more labourers have move into the service sector.
To make up for the shortage, the company, which by the end of last year employed 1.3 million people, is automating more of its assembly lines, its founder Terry Gou told the Financial Times earlier this week. 
“The young generation don’t want to work in factories,” said Gou.
Manufacturers such as Foxconn have turned to interns, “because they are finding it increasingly difficult to both hire and retain staff,” said Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, a labour rights watchdog.
“It is an arrangement that benefits the factories and the schools but clearly not the students who often have to work long hours for low pay,” he said.