“Is America’s gadget fixation lifting Asians out of poverty or pushing them deeper into it? That has been a question ever since press reports suggested that Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod music players are being assembled in sweatshop conditions in China,” Andy Mukherjee writes in an opinion piece for Bloomberg.
“Workers were being forced to toil for as little as $50 a month under Dickensian conditions, one commentator said. Poor Asians, mostly women, were caught in this vicious cycle because Americans are addicted to gizmos, another rued,” Mukherjee writes. “Amid the hysteria, Apple began its own audit of the factory, which is situated in China’s Shenzhen special economic zone and is owned by Foxconn Technology Group, a unit of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.
“The findings, unveiled last month, are interesting,” Mukherjee writes. “Air-conditioned hostels, Apple’s auditors discovered, are available to workers free of charge; the dorms have TV rooms, free laundry, snooker tables and public telephones; the campus comes with soccer fields, a swimming pool, supermarkets, Internet cafes, banks, 13 restaurants and a hospital. There’s no child labor; no one is paid less than the locally mandated minimum wage; male and female employees are housed in separate dormitories; safety isn’t a concern. Everyone has medical coverage.”
Mukherjee writes, “The biggest complaint of workers: a lack of overtime opportunities during non-peak periods. This is a sweatshop?”
“None of this is to contend that Hon Hai workers in Shenzhen are living in a capitalist utopia. Work weeks are often longer than the stipulated 60 hours,” Mukherjee writes. “Accommodation is of considerably poorer quality for those workers who are forced to live outside the campus. After Apple published its audit report, Hon Hai said it would hire more workers and build more dormitories.”
“Hon Hai and Apple would surely keep their promises. The Taiwanese company has a market value of $31 billion, almost half that of Apple. That’s a lot of corporate reputation at stake,” Mukherjee writes. “The biggest winners will be the Chinese workers and their families. Millions of Asians have fed the American craving for consumer goods and crawled out of poverty within one generation, as the Hon Hai workers in China surely will.”
Full article here.
The nerve! How dare Mukherjee dilute ginned-up sensationalism with common sense pragmatism?!
iPod-manufacturer Foxconn drops lawsuit over iPod ‘sweatshop’ report – September 03, 2006
Chinese government orders iPod manufacturer Foxconn to let workers unionize – September 01, 2006
iPod-manufacturer Foxconn cuts damage claim to against journalists to 1 renminbi (US$0.13) – August 31, 2006
Apple ‘working behind-the-scenes’ to help resolve plight of Chinese ‘iPod sweatshop’ journalists – August 30, 2006
Apple asked to intercede on behalf of Chinese ‘iPod sweatshop’ reporters – August 29, 2006
Foxconn sues journalist, editor over iPod ‘sweatshop’ story – August 29, 2006
Apple releases ‘Report on iPod Manufacturing’ – August 17, 2006
Should Apple build its own factory in China to manufacture iPods? – July 03, 2006
iPod maker admits breaking Chinese labor laws; says Apple approved sweatshop labor – June 26, 2006
Apple begins ‘thorough audit’ of Foxconn iPod factory – June 20, 2006
Apple iPod manufacturer Foxconn sternly denies iPod sweatshop claims – June 19, 2006
Apple iPod ‘sweatshop’ story a ‘poorly researched sensationalist article’ – June 19, 2006
Apple rebuts Chinese iPod factory claims – June 13, 2006
iPods made in Chinese sweatshops? – June 13, 2006