Zhengzhou, China — Hundreds of smiling faces greeted Tim Cook on his visit last week to a Foxconn iPhone factory — most of them coming from state-of-the-art incubators.
The highlight of Cook’s factory tour was the “Hatchery,” where thousands of new iPhone workers are being grown.
The Hatchery is Foxconn’s ingenious solution to the problem of underage workers. Though Chinese regulations prohibit bringing in new workers under the age of 16, there is nothing to stop Foxconn from growing its own workers from scratch.
Tim Cook, showing his human side, stopped to tickle the hatchlings and snap photos for his office. He seemed particularly taken by future workers Stevie-1006 through Stevie-1009.
“They’re cute as a button,” he quipped. “An iPhone home button, that is!”
The Fair Labor Association, having previously documented numerous violations at the plant, was generally pleased with the Hatchery concept. FLA president Auret van Heerden said that the hatchlings “appear to be generally well fed and healthy,” though he did express some concern about the cleanliness of feeding tubes.
It is estimated that Foxconn’s Hatchery will produce up to 10,000 fresh workers per year. This won’t solve the factory’s labor problems entirely, but it’s a “good start,” according to a Foxconn spokesperson.
The use of accelerated growth hormones should get hatchlings productive by age 2 — if not on the assembly line, at least taking care of general factory cleanup.