The teens who build the iPhones

December 24, 2010, 1:35 PM UTC

Rare photos and a video of life outside Foxconn’s factory complex in Shenzhen, China

Foxconn workers. Photo: Jordan Pouille

French journalist Jordan Pouille, who reported last May on the working conditions at Foxconn’s giant Shenzhen factory complex, paid a second visit recently.

He came back from China with photos, a videotape and a clearer picture than we’ve seen before of what life is like for the people who build iPhones and iPads for Apple (AAPL), PSPs for Sony (SNE), printer cartridges for Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).

According to Pouille, all the workers he met were teenagers or twentysomethings, mostly from poverty-stricken Chinese provinces like Henan, Hunan and Sichuan. The biggest changes he observed since last Spring, he says, stem from the pay raises the workers received after a wave of suicides earlier this year.

“Once a week,” he writes, “owing to their bigger salary, workers are able to treat themselves and enjoy simple pleasures like a funny haircut or a good candy. They like showing [off], and the bridge over Foxconn main gate now looks like a catwalk.”

But Pouille was not persuaded. He titled the piece he posted Friday “Why I don’t want an iPhone for Christmas.”

Video teaser (in French) below the fold. Note the anti-theft anti-suicide window gates on the high-rise dormitories. Also the claim by one worker that she can assemble 3,000 iPhones per day.

UPDATE: The video has been moved behind some kind of wall. Apologies to those who got here too late.

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]