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Samsung enforces only 30 percent of its 'zero tolerance' policy on child labor

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Leniency for a Chinese supplier shown to have used underage workers

Earlier this summer, Samsung reacted swiftly to the discovery of unlawful hiring of child workers at one of its Chinese factories by suspending business with the offending supplier, Dongguan Shinyang Electronics. Following further investigation by local authorities, reports Reuters, the Korean company now says that the illegal underage workers were employed by a subcontractor to the Dongguan supplier rather than the factory operator itself. Technically, therefore, the fault is thought to reside in the third-party firm and Samsung is resuming production at the Dongguan factory from today.

As a measure of its disapproval for the lapse in oversight, Samsung is reducing its orders to Dongguan by 30 percent. Though that's touted as upholding Samsung's "zero tolerance" policy on child labor, it's likely to send the wrong message to cost-sensitive Chinese suppliers: so long as they employ their seasonal workers through outside agencies, they'll be able to retain clients like Samsung — albeit at a penalty — when caught with illegal workers on the premises. If Samsung is serious about eradicating child labor from its workforce, it would do well to treat instances such as the present one in Dongguan with a more literal zero tolerance policy.