Itinerant workers in the super factory

“Find a way to learn skills, don’t enter the factory”

  In the Kangqiao Industrial Zone, Pudong New District, Shanghai, a factory with a capacity of 100,000 people, workers come and go like a tide. The peak number is in August and September, reaching more than 100,000. It is not wages that adjust this figure, but something called “rebates.”
  The rebate can be understood as an additional reward for migrant workers after the three-month construction period expires. It is not only a barometer of factory orders, but also a means for factories to regulate the number of workers. In peak seasons, the demand for labor is large, and the rebate fee will rise accordingly; in the off-season, the rebate fee will decrease, and workers will be scattered like migratory birds.
  After the National Day, Shanghai Pegatron’s rebate fee dropped to 6000 yuan. A month ago, the “rebate” was still 11,000 yuan.
  ”The end of September and the beginning of October (rebates) were the highest in previous years.” A large number of recruitment started early this year. “By the beginning of September, prices have already started to drop.” Ling Min, who has worked for a labor service company near Pegatron for many years, told me.
  The rebate has a long history. Many people from labor dispatch companies told me that it has been at least four or five years. Ling Min couldn’t tell which year it happened. But in 2011, when she joined Pegatron from her hometown for the first time, the rebate fee was still something that could not be “put on the table”. After working in the factory for three months, she heard of her colleague’s 1,000 yuan rebate. But she is sure that the rebate is always there. “From the beginning of the intermediary and labor services, there will be rebates.”
  Time goes back to 2004, when Apple had transferred most of its production work abroad, and the person who led this decision was the current CEO of Apple. Timothy Donald Cook (Timothy Donald Cook). Similar to many electronics companies in the United States, Apple has set its sights on Asia. In Cook’s view, the reason why Asia is popular is that on the one hand, its supply chain is better than that of the United States, and on the other hand, “workers’ wages are cheaper.”
  Pegatron is Apple’s second largest generation plant after Foxconn. Although the Pegatron Group to which it belongs has not announced its production capacity, according to a report in Caijing magazine, Pegatron has a monthly limit of 5 million units. At the highest number, there were hundreds of thousands of workers in the Pegatron factory.
  The requirements for entering the factory are simple. “Male and female operators are 18-42 years old (no prior record) and can recite 26 English letters”-this is the entry requirement announced on the Shanghai Pegatron recruitment official website. In Ling Min’s words, “As long as an individual can enter.”
  Due to the high demand for labor, Pegatron outsourced the recruitment of some temporary workers to intermediary companies. However, the warning “Do not enter the factory through an intermediary” is very eye-catching on the site and on the recruitment website. An employee close to Pegatron’s personnel department said in an interview with Caijing: “This method can increase the speed of recruitment, and if there is any problem with the intermediary, Pegatron can have no risk.”

In November 2019, at noon, young people in uniforms searched for food in the stalls of restaurants next to the factory. Picture/Visual China

  “Labor dispatch companies make profits by providing workers to factories. Part of the profit comes from the factory and the other part comes from the wages of the workers. People can avoid providing workers with more comprehensive labor security. This is a win-win situation.” Ling Min concluded.
  What kind of people want to enter the factory?
  ”There is no (family) background. People with background will not come here to look for work.” After working as a labor agency for many years, Ling Min can see at a glance whether the backpacker wandering in front of the company is looking for work or inquiring about news. Of peers. According to her experience, people looking for work have different eyes and walking styles. “Some people want higher rebate fees, go to whichever is higher; some people will spend several days comparing the treatment of various stores. At this time, it depends on who (the intermediary) can fool you.” There is
  no shortage of fresh faces at Changshuo’s door . . Every day, people with backpacks walk around the door, and woven bag-like luggage is placed under their feet. Those who come to consult are actually most concerned about whether the factory can leave the job?
  An uncle dragging a suitcase told me that he had worked at a construction site near Pegatron for many years. When there was no work on the construction site, he had visited the factory several times-“I will include food and accommodation.” He thought I was going to the factory, uncle The word earnestly taught: “Young people, think of ways to learn technology, don’t always think about entering the factory.”
  On July 27, 2021, Apple announced the third quarter of fiscal 2021 (as of June 26, 2021) Financial performance, data show that the June quarter revenue reached a record 81.4 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of 36% year-on-year. Through outsourcing, Apple has maximized its profits. As one of Apple’s foundries, Pegatron maximizes factory profits by recruiting “rework”. At the bottom of this global industrial chain, there are tens of thousands of migrant workers.
Migratory birds

  Because of the rebate, Yang Mingliang entered Pegatron three times.
  In April 2020, under the introduction of a friend, Yang Mingliang came to Shanghai. The opportunity to leave his hometown of Hainan was injury. Two years ago, when Yang Mingliang installed the external air conditioner on the outer wall of the sixth floor, the rope suddenly broke. Thanks to the hidden window on the fourth floor, he recovered his life and sewed six stitches on his right hand.
  ”It’s an accident, it’s inevitable.” He didn’t think anything, but his parents worried that as the only child, he didn’t insist anymore. After doing home appliance repairs for two years, his monthly income has stabilized at more than 10,000 yuan. At that time, with the support of his parents, he also bought a house.
  After not doing this, Yang Mingliang rested at home for half a year. A friend suggested that he go to Shanghai to run the rebate fee, saying that he would get more than 10,000 yuan for 90 days of work and a basic salary of 2,590 yuan. He was dubious, but with a mortgage, he came anyway.
  Yang Mingliang doesn’t have many choices. Before joining Pegatron, he worked as a soldier, worked as a security guard, ran for takeaways, and opened a barbecue stall with his friends, most of them died in a hurry. He felt, “Without a diploma, what can I do instead of working for someone?”
  In October 2020, Yang Mingliang entered the factory for the first time. After working for nearly four months, I successfully got a rebate of 15,000 yuan. After the Lunar New Year, he returned to Shanghai from his hometown, did another 6000 yuan rework, and then worked in Dafeng Electronics Factory for a month. The latter is another electronics factory that uses rebates to recruit a lot of workers. On the short video platform, you can often see videos comparing the actual work conditions of the two factories. Although the basic salary of the two is high and the other is low, due to the different charging standards for board and lodging, the calculations are almost the same. Yang Mingliang is more accustomed to staying at Pegatron, at least, “There is no insect bite in the dormitory here.”
  Rework is not so easy to persist. “Pull buckets and run away” is the self-deprecating term of this group of migrant workers. Although the rebate worth 10,000 yuan is tempting, the premise is that they have to insist on 90 working days. Yang Mingliang witnessed many workers coming and leaving. The most exaggerated time was when he entered the factory for the second time. There were 16 people on the screw production line, and only 3 of them lasted. Yang Mingliang didn’t think it was worthwhile. “You went all the way to work here, you had an interview, and you spent money on a medical examination. In the end, after two days of work, you didn’t think the job was enough and you had to leave. Don’t you think this is a loss?”

  Yang Mingliang doesn’t like to suffer. His part-time job logic is simple, “You come out to work to make money, not to do whatever you want. As long as there is work, I will definitely not lose money.”
  ”Why can I stick to it?”
  ”I seem to have worked harder. “When he was
  still in Hainan, Yang Mingliang did a daily knot. At that time, he had to unload the buckets from dozens of trucks. “One truck has about 50 buckets.” The companion gave up after doing it for two hours, but he didn’t. “If I leave, I will work for them for two hours for free.” He insisted on unloading the whole night, and finally got 450 yuan.
  After that experience, Yang Mingliang didn’t feel particularly tired for anything. “You have to put your mindset, really. Although (electronics factory) daily work is the same, very annoying and boring. Just stick to it. As long as you have a rush in your heart, you can do anything.” Yang shared his part-time job experience. Mingliang said “Bentou” several times.
  He asked me: “When you grow up, do you have the experience that you really want to get something, but you still can’t get it in the end?” When he was still in the army six years ago, Yang Mingliang participated in the selection of the “Nine-Three Military Parade”. In the final round before the final selection of the 300-man team, he was eliminated and burst into tears on the spot. After so long, he still feels that this is his biggest “unavailable”.
  Compared with this strong “Bentou”, the life of the electronics factory seems to be less passionate, and “Bentou” tends to be flat. He felt that “earn more money, pay off the mortgage, and buy a car, it’s enough.” “Anyway, I don’t have a diploma, so I just take one step at a time.”
  In addition to rebates, there is another model for recruiting temporary workers in electronics factories, which calculates wages by the hour. When Yang Mingliang recently joined Pegatron at the end of August, he worked as an hourly worker with an hourly rate of 34 yuan. Because the return fee is “too long and the uncertainty is too strong” and Hainan is approaching the season of betel nut harvesting, he needs to go back at any time if there are not enough staff at home. But even if there is no such thing, he plans to wait until the end of the year to stop doing it.
  Many people regard the electronics factory as a transit point, including Shen Tao from Hubei. In the long working life, the electronics factory is by no means an overwhelming stroke, but it is indispensable. When working at Foxconn in Shenzhen a few years ago, Shen Tao heard a friend talk about two things, one is the rebate of the electronics factory, and the other is related to virtual currency.
  In October 2019, Shen Tao entered Pegatron for the first time in order to get the rebate fee. Encountered the epidemic, he stayed in the factory for a whole year. After that, he went back to his hometown to rest for a few months, and then went to work in Xiongan New District for a while. In August 2021, Shen Tao returned to Pegatron again. He set a deadline for himself-in November, he left after receiving a rebate of 10,000 yuan. He doesn’t have a lot of savings. Almost all of his income from ten years of work is sent home to build a house in his hometown, and the rest is invested in virtual currency. In his spare time, Shen Tao, who left the assembly line, spent almost all of his time on the Internet. “If I had good resources, I would have invested one or two million yuan.” Shen Tao’s knowledge of virtual currency originated from a friend in Shenzhen. He later On Baidu on the Internet, I think this is reliable. He was cheated of thousands of dollars for buying virtual currency.
  When first coming to Pegatron, Lin Li wanted to earn a rebate and leave. The factory where she last worked suffered heavy losses in the Henan flood on July 20, 2021, and has never been reopened. After doing nothing for two months, Lin Li got on the train away from home. The train lingered for more than ten hours. When he arrived in Shanghai, Lin Li’s first insight was, “When you get home, you must not take the train for such a long time.”
Assembly line

  The most recent time he entered the factory, Shen Tao worked outside the line, responsible for overseeing production capacity, changing work orders, and classifying iPhones by model. Compared with the types of work on the assembly line, they are more flexible off-line and more things need to be taken into account.
  At Pegatron, off-line is directly under the command of the team leader, and keeping an eye on output is an important duty off-line. There are a total of 16 people in Shen Tao’s rank. The team leader asked him to guarantee the production capacity of at least 6,000 iPhones per day and to keep stocks for another production line. These figures are averaged to individuals, that is to say, “A person has to stick at least 88 iPhone foams per hour.”
  September is Pegatron’s peak production period. Every few days, Shen Tao will be the team leader.” Have a dick”. He is most afraid of assembly, which often means that the output is not up to standard. After the leaders were held accountable, according to the hierarchical relationship between the team leader, team leader, and off-line, Shen Tao inevitably received a few scolds. He is often exhausted from work. However, after the recent increase in output, the work has been much smoother.

Pegatron’s No. 5 gate is the gate with the largest flow of people in normal times, and the factory direct recruitment point is set up here. Photo/Reporter Wang Jiawei

  Yang Mingliang, who is also in the fifth factory, was also asked if he wanted to be an off-line. He didn’t like to worry about it, and rejected the group leader’s proposal. When he entered the factory for the third time, he was assigned to the fifth factory to paste 4 foams and 1 iron sheet on the motherboard of the iPhone13. His life was simple. He did the work on the assembly line well, bragged with the workers next to him, and one day passed.
  Because he didn’t want to stay on the assembly line, before entering the factory, Lin Li paid 600 yuan and asked an intermediary to arrange it in a “lighter” department. After she entered the factory in early September, she was assigned to the R&D department to test the iPhone13. As for the content of the experiment, she said that she could not talk about it because of the signing of a confidentiality agreement.
  But within a month, Lin Li regretted it. It sounds like the advanced R&D department is in a laboratory with numerous equipment and unfixed seats for workers. Although the content of work is easy, but when there is no work, in order to cope with the inspection of the team leader, everyone has to “pretend to be alive.”
  ”It is to boil up time.” In order not to be targeted, Lin Li always put a notebook in front of the work station. , Sat in a daze. Perhaps the only advantage of this type of work is that she can look at her mobile phone for a while during lunch time-which is impossible for workers on the production line. When I am extremely upset, sitting and resting at the work station are all suffering. Lin Li thought, it’s better to go to the assembly line.
  There was another reason Lin Li regretted. She felt that 600 yuan was unnecessary. She heard that when employees choose a department on the first day they enter the factory, the “easy department” will give priority to young and beautiful girls. When entering the factory on the first day, Lin Li, who was pulling a suitcase, was asked twice. She later heard that those who were a little better would be picked. “Maybe it’s the administrative department?” Thinking about it now, she felt sorry for the 600 yuan she had spent.
Shanghai Dream

  If you ask Pegatron’s workers, why is Pegatron? In the answer, Shanghai must be inseparable.
  Lin Li is from Xinxiang, Henan, a city only 100 kilometers away from the Foxconn Zhengzhou factory, but she still decided to come to Pegatron because “this is Shanghai” and “Shanghai (photographed) feels very advanced.” Lin Li said.
  But in fact, she doesn’t have much time to experience Shanghai. Life in the electronics factory day after day, six days a week, from 8 am to 8 pm. With only one day off, Lin Li would rather lie down in the dormitory. Her younger brother, who is 7 years younger than her, is also working in Shanghai. In the first half month since he first came to Shanghai, they only met once. The two of them strolled around Nanjing East Road. After eating a meal, they each took the subway back to where they were working.

  Life outside the factory is not something to look forward to. In the eight-person dormitory, the number of night shifts and day shifts is half, the work and rest are reversed, and the differences in living habits are all sorts of things. In the collapse caused by repetition and triviality, Lin Li had had the idea of ​​”carrying a bucket and running” too many times, but the idea hadn’t formed yet and she was extinguished. Hesitated and persisted for more than a month.
  Lin Li has been puzzled. Except for herself, why do everyone seem to be happy? So, when the agent Zheng Kai who introduced her into the factory invited her to take a video together and asked “How about working in the factory recently”, she blurted out “suffering”.
  But Zheng Kai said, this won’t work, you have to say that life in the factory is pretty good, and let’s start again. Lin Li adjusted the height of the mask and changed her expression to respond. After the video was filmed, Lin Li said, “Is it, it is better to be positive.”
  Lin Li is one of the many employees who have been introduced to Pegatron through Zheng Kai. In this August, at least 100 people entered the factory through Zheng Kai’s introduction. As a third party connecting migrant workers and labor service companies, he draws commissions ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 yuan as compensation. This is a small link in that global industrial chain.
  For many people who are not familiar with Pegatron and enter the factory for the first time, entering the factory through a network intermediary is the most convenient. Search for “Pegatron”, “Part-time job”, etc. on the short video platform, and you can quickly retrieve Zheng Kai’s video. He made short videos of all his three times of entering the factory and updated them every two days. The content was specific and seemed quite tempting. For example, “Pegatron, it’s a bit uncomfortable to work the night shift.” Another example, “Pegatron, we will get the rebate after entering the factory for the second time.”

Zheng Kai. Picture/provided by interviewee

  When choosing Zheng Kai as the rebate introducer, Lin Li felt that others were reliable and the videos she made were practical. Zheng Kai’s principle is “persist in working in the factory, clocking in, and filming videos, so that the things that are captured are more real, and other people are willing to watch it.”
  Many people have also been deceived. Promising false rebates is the most common scam, and Zheng Kai himself has encountered it. It was August 2020. When he first came to Shanghai, he talked to an agent in Xi’an. He only got half of the 8,000 yuan rebate promised by the other party. When negotiating rebates with intermediaries, workers are the weaker party. After Zheng Kai came across bad luck, he had a foreboding about encountering a black intermediary. After all, “the other party’s three certificates (business license, human resources service license, and labor dispatch license) are not all the same”. What’s terrible is that many people who want to enter the factory don’t understand this.
  Zheng Kai said that his (rebate) quotation is basically one or two hundred higher than the market price. Most of his “fans” group is composed of “post-00s”, “People who want to work in the factory must have poor family conditions, have no academic qualifications, and are rather confused.” Sometimes, Zheng Kai can see himself from them.
  At the age of 19, he had first been involved in society for three years, and he didn’t know where he was going in the future. Later, after contacting human resources and identifying the labor dispatch model, he decided to come to Shanghai to explore.
  Why is Shanghai? I asked Zheng Kai.
  ”When I was young, I watched “Shanghai Bund”, the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Bund, and I yearned for it. Moreover, the winter is not so cold.” In Zheng Kai’s Shanghai dream, he is a business person with a neat suit, a car and a house.
Day and night in “Apple Village”

  Pegatron covers an area of ​​3,200 acres. From the map, this super factory is located on the Kangxin Highway. To the west, intersect with Xiuyan Road. To the east, there is a viaduct through which Metro Line 11 passes-the destination is Disney, which is six kilometers away.
  Before the completion of the super factory, people used to call the surrounding area Rocket Village-this name originated from the “Rocket Commando” in the era of mass production of the People’s Commune, which took 50 years. In 2004, Pegatron Technology Co., Ltd. was established in Kangqiao Industrial Zone, Pudong New District, Shanghai. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers gather here, and some people simply call this “Apple Village”.

A night market across the street from Pegatron. Photo/Reporter Wang Jiawei

  After the factory was built, restaurants, Internet cafes, hotels, and labor service companies appeared one after another. No matter day or night, ASUS Night Market is always vibrant. As soon as you entered, the steaming heat and popularity rushed into your eyes. The stalls such as Anhui Braised Vegetables, Mala Tang, Lanzhou Lamb Noodles, Authentic Shredded Chicken, Henan Steamed Noodles, etc. came into view. Dining cultures from all over the world coexisted harmoniously here. The ground is never clean, oily, sticky, and littered with cigarette butts, sorbet sticks and advertising cards.
  It was a little bit deserted during the day, and there were a few people in factory uniforms who came to the night shift to fight the teeth. Going deeper into the night market, small shops such as nail art, tattoos, and phone cards will appear. Some products only have a market near Pegatron, such as a 49 yuan non-magnetic bra and 69 yuan a non-magnetic jeans in a clothing store. This is necessary equipment to evade security alarms. Zheng Kai often sees workers who fail the security check. The alarm goes off and they can only return to the dormitory and change their clothes.
  The night market is just across the street from the factory. After 5:30 in the afternoon, workers from Changshuo Gate 5 came out one after another and walked towards the night market. At night, the sound of selling pierced through the unclean street corners, and the red and blue warning lights flickered. At the end of 2020, the factory enters the off-season, there are no orders, the factory layoffs, and I want to transfer some people to the Kunshan factory. Many people didn’t want to go, so they made trouble in the factory. Since then, police cars have been patrolling near Pegatron. “Understandable, such a big factory.” Zheng Kai said.
  Compared to mobile vendors, food stalls are the busiest. Six or seven people in factory uniforms sat around a table, and among them there were only two women-which just happened to constitute Pegatron’s sex ratio. For most men in the factory, finding someone is difficult.
  In order to attract male migrant workers, a few girls in Pegatron factory clothes are dancing beside the food stall. This is another kind of network intermediary. The video content is mainly based on factory girls dancing and the factory girls’ dormitory life. I searched their live broadcast room with my mobile phone. While the girl “showed” the dancing factory girl, she claimed to be a recruiter in the Pegatron factory, “enter the factory and add WeChat.” I checked with Zheng Kai and he pointed to the other person personally. Certification on the homepage. It says, Shanghai Langzhi Human Resources Co., Ltd. “They are all deceitful.” At the night market, a Pegatron factory clothes only cost 50 yuan.
  After leaving the factory voluntarily, Zheng Kai did not come to the night market for a long time. But no matter where he goes, he can always meet acquaintances. The owner of the beverage store asked him, “Are you still in the factory?” He smiled awkwardly and said that he hadn’t been there recently.
  At the beginning of September 2021, Zheng Kai enrolled in a driving school class, with a mind to learn how to drive. He confessed to his fans, “After taking the driver’s license, he will enter the factory.” After not working in the factory, his video theme became “Living on a flat life after leaving the electronics factory.”
  The flow is metaphysics, he dare not change it. In addition to shooting videos, he also broadcasts live broadcasts every other day, “Just talk about his own life.” But one day when the topic is over, he doesn’t know what to shoot.
  When Lin Li was invited to make a video together, Zheng Kai told fans, “Miss Sister is on holiday, ask her out for coffee.” In the video, Zheng Kai asked Lin Li, “How about the R&D department?” Lin Li did not look at the camera and said The sentence “It’s okay.” Prior to this, the two also worked together on videos of past gym exercises. “It’s all needed to make a video.” Zheng Kai explained.
  Before coming to Pegatron, Lin Li liked to share outfits on short video platforms and had about 30,000 fans. When she joined the factory in September, she occasionally updated her daily work at Pegatron. But her monetization ability is not as good as Zheng Kai’s. Not only is the video not watched, but she also keeps dropping fans.
  Zheng Kai taught her to hide all the previous video content and “keep a unified style.” Lin Li did so, but she had too many previous videos and it would be impossible to hide them for a while.
  Zheng Kai’s happiest moment is when the video is popular. That means that more people who want to enter the factory may be able to see him. Two months after leaving the factory, a fan asked him curiously, “How do people who don’t go to work are reliable?”
  To finish the driver’s license test as soon as possible, he thought, he still had to enter the factory.