Foxconn slows new hiring at China factories, denies move linked to weak iPhone demand

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Taiwan technology giant Foxconn has slowed new hiring at its vast China factories, it said Thursday, but denied the move was linked to weak demand for Apple's iPhone 5, which it produces.

"Due to an unprecedented rate of return of employees following the Chinese New Year holiday compared to years past, our company has decided to temporarily slow down our recruitment process," Foxconn Technology Group said.

China's migrant workers go home for the annual Lunar New Year holiday and immediately after the long break companies typically report labour shortages as employees delay their return or fail to go back to their previous jobs.

The Financial Times newspaper reported Wednesday that Foxconn had frozen China hiring due to reduced orders for Apple's iPhone 5.

But Foxconn denied hiring decisions were made based on any one customer, while not specifically naming Apple.

"This action is not related to any single customer and any speculation to the contrary is false and inaccurate," it said in a statement sent to AFP.

Foxconn is the world's largest contract electronics maker and assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia, among others, in giant plants in China.

The Wall Street Journal on Thursday quoted a Foxconn spokesman as saying that more than 90 percent of its workers had returned to their jobs after the Lunar New Year and denying the move was related to customer orders.

Foxconn admitted in November last year that it was struggling to meet strong demand for the then newly launched iPhone 5 due to difficulties in assembling the product because of certain design features, which it did not specify.

The company employs more than one million workers in China, roughly half of them based in its main facility in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.

Foxconn has come under the spotlight in recent years over worker suicides, labour unrest and the use of underage interns at its Chinese plants. It has taken steps to address concerns raised by an independent audit of conditions mandated by Apple.

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