In China, human costs are built into iPads and tens of thousands of other non-Apple products

“In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history,” Charles Duhigg and David Barboza report for The New York Times. “However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.”

“Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors,” Duhigg and Barboza report. “More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: In the the full article, “Apple” was deployed 105 times (105 times!), “iPad” 12 times, “iPhone” nine times, and “iPod” once. That’s 139 Apple-related mentions in an article detailing conditions at Chinese, not Apple, companies that, oh by the way, also happen to assemble products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and many, many, many other companies around the world. No, one short paragraph mentioning other companies by name once, doesn’t provide “balance.”

Singling out Apple and glossing over every other company doesn’t make you smart hit-whores, guys. It makes you slanted, biased, yellow journalists. But, of course, you do work for The New York Times, so that was to be expected.

The next time you transparent fools wonder why your circulation and employee numbers continue to plummet, just re-read this Take.

Apple insists that all of their suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes. Apple’s actions, from thorough site audits to industry-leading training programs, demonstrate this commitment.

Read more about supplier responsibility at Apple here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “The Scarbro” for the heads up.]

65 Comments

    1. Says who? And what would those many thousands of Foxconn employees be doing, if it weren’t for Apple. Working in a filed for nothing, building X-boxes, working in the coal mines.

      Why not do a hit job on the sweat shops in LA and NY or the poultry processing plants, or even college sports where the athletes slave for food a dorm room and $10,000 a year worth of tuition and risk life ending or debilitating injuries.

      I expect the dorm occupiers qat Foxconn get free room and board on top of there better that average wage for Chines based manufacturers.

      1. Ohhh, I imagine Apple needs them more than they need Apple. Apple’s only ONE of their customers, so if it weren’t for Apple, it’d be Microsoft, HP, etc.

        However, to turn out as many units as that plant does… well, there’s nowhere ELSE in the world to do it. SO, Apple either uses what the other companies use, or they don’t get their products made.

      2. Those lazy Chinese slaves would probably be just laying around all day if Apple didn’t provide them something to occupy their time!

        Good APPL, bad slave!

        It’s all about Tim Cook’s bottom line, more money for AAPL’s cash hoard.

        1. They’re not slaves, they get paid. They get paid more then most people in China doing this sort of work.

          Manufacturing goods is a dangerous business as you’re working with heavy machinery. There will always be injuries and such. To Apple’s credit, they’ve actually been working hard to improve the conditions there.

  1. I don’t care if Apple’s name is mention a million times! They have to be better than the rest. This just goes to prove that no one got rich by being honest, nice and caring.

    Apple has to do better and strive to be the best. I guess the editors of this site don’t mind buying the electronic equivalent of blood diamonds.

    1. Ok, tell me where Apple could have their products made that’s NOT a horrible factory in China. Show me one example of another place that’s able to meet the HUGE demand plus is NOT Foxconn, and then you have a point.

      If all the companies are having their devices made at the same plant, and only ONE company is trying to make things better… well, not likely to have much of an impact. Plus, Foxconn knows… if you don’t use them, you don’t get the volumes you need… so suck it!

  2. Those two authors from NYT attacked exclusively Apple for years.

    In this article, they piled up some real facts of Foxconn’s fallacies with a lot of hearsay from grudged former employees and contractors.

    Somehow in the articles by these two authors other companies like HP, Intel, Dell, Samsung etc are rousy even though they never make these extensive audits as Apple does, nor they ever visited their subcontractors. Obviously, the fact that these companies love to give their comments to these authors completely makes complete indulgence to these companies.

    Apple is minority in both Foxconn’s and, the more so, overall Chinese manufacturing process, yet this is the only company these NYT writers trip on.

  3. MDN, ‘yellow’ journalism…. Really? Do you know that history? The Times, for all their faults, was never part of that label. That said, I totally agree about the fitful and too-oft mention of Apple in that article, especially as the rest of the world is involved, and Apple did the deed of sticking their necks out for at least some oversight.

    1. Yellow journalism: A type of journalism that uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. By extension, the term “yellow journalism” is used today as a pejorative to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion.

      1. By that definition MDN itself uses yellow journalism through “exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism”. Granted it’s not an original-source news site, but it doesn’t cast itself as “Mac Daily OPINION” either.

  4. Granted that the article is skewed, focusing almost exclusively on Apple, but it is responsible for a large share of Foxconn’s output. That several other large tech companies also use Foxconn doesn’t change the dismal conditions and pay – it just means that Apple is far from the only company making incredible profits off of arguably exploited labor, it does nothing to justify this widespread corporate lack of scruples. Sadly, Foxconn employees probably have relatively better conditions than many workers in China, if only because of the attention the media has given to Foxconn because of its ties to Apple. But many consumers, myself included, are complicit in this since we buy and use many products that were made by people working at Foxconn and countless other places where labor and life is “cheaper” than in the U.S.

    1. You do not understand what’s going on in China. The Foxxcon workers are the highest paid laborers in the best working conditions in the whole country. The workers are supporting their parents and a grandparent or two along with themselves with the wages and benefits they earn.

      There is a long waiting list for the jobs in the Foxxcon factories.

      As for the suicides, the suicide rate in American Universities and Colleges, with similarly aged people enrolled, is 2 to 3 times higher than at the Foxxcon factories.

      You are blaming Apple for the best thing that has ever happened to the workers there.

      1. “Foxconn employees probably have relatively better conditions than many workers in China if only because of the attention the media has given to Foxconn because of its ties to Apple” – to quote myself – so i’m not sure what your point is, unless your argument is that it is okay to condone poor working conditions because Foxconn’s conditions are relatively less horrible than many – i made no mention of suicide, so i’m not sure where that came from – also you missed me pointing out that consumers, and stockholders, like myself, and perhaps even you, are complicit in this global reality of exploited labor.

        Sometimes it helps to read and understand what you are commenting on before you actually make a comment. = )

      2. i confess that you, altegeo, clearly do understand what’s going on in China, while i’m obviously clueless . . . to help me and others rebut Apple haters’ claims about Foxconn labor, perhaps you can reveal your sources proving that, to quote you, “Foxxcon workers are the highest paid laborers in the best working conditions in the whole country” i’d be curious from whence you pulled that alleged fact, certainly not out of thin air, nor, i hope, your butt, so just cite where you’re getting your info on Foxconn – i’m sure Apple and the other big tech companies like MicroSoft, (foxconn makes x boxes and tons of stuff for plenty of other companies besides Apple), would appreciate the proof of what you claim – then they can send it to those clueless fools at the NYtimes – then you’ll probably get MS and Apple sending you free gadgets for life – you can finally get that Zune you’ve always wanted

  5. POTUS: Steve, I want those iPhone jobs back in the United States.
    Steve: Not going to happen. Regulations in the U.S. do not allow us to move fast enought to bring a product to market quickly and in cost.

    Liberal Press: Apple must die.

    Simple.

      1. They are building plants all the time. There are empty factories all around and people who would love to have such a job. Pay them a fair wage – whatever that might be. How much would a USA-built iPhone cost? Apple can certainly stand to pare their margins, and I suspect many would be willing to pay more for their Apple products since the alternative is so crappy. Buy USA, put our citizens back to work, and take our sense of pride back.

        1. You’re wrong. Here’s why:

          “China provides engineers at a scale the United States can not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States. In China, it took 15 days.”

          Apple, Steve Jobs, Obama, America and a squeezed middle class

        2. Foxxcon workers make around $400.00 a month plus free room and board.

          Apple needs about 400,000 to 500,000 well educated workers that will work for those wages. They can find them in China and India.

          Give us a call when you find them in the USA.

          Until then, STFU.

          1. I think you missed my point. Of course people in the USA would not work for such meager wages, and suppose that fair pay would exceed minimum wage by a substantial margin – let’s say double the minimum wage. I’ll ask my question again (forgive me for not being willing to STFU): how much would a USA-made iPhone then cost? Would it double the price?

            I’m sure Apple has looked at these figures and calculated that it’s in their best business interests to have their products made in China or Brazil where labor is cheap. However, those overseas costs are rising, and at some point making things here might be a viable option. I for one would rather pay $200 more to have an iPhone that says ‘Made in the USA.’

            1. If you found 150 million people willing to “do the right thing”, “buy American”, and pay $2000 for an iPhone, there isn’t enough American Manufacturing capacity OR American employees that could make it happen.

              That’s why it doesn’t matter… because it can’t happen even in the rosiest of scenarios.

            2. Bezoar,

              If the price of the iPhone was only doubled (in order for you to have an iPhone that says ‘Made in the USA’), you would have to pay extra $850. Current price of an iPhone is $650 (base model, unsubsidised). Consumer pays $200, carrier pays $450, and then recovers it from the monthly subscription over two years. With the price of $1300, and the carrier subsidy still $450, you’d have to pay those $850 upfront in order to get that subsidised phone.

              Even if US did have the engineering and assembly workforce, plus the ability to deliver them in two weeks, the amount of money needed to cover the salaries and benefits would push iPhone’s retail price well above $2000 (about 3 – 4 times the current retail price).

              Does that answer your question?

            3. Predrag,

              I apologize for not replying under you message, but I don’t see a ‘reply’ button there.

              Yes, that is basically the kind of answer I’m looking for, though doubling the price is merely a starting place for a guess. What if manufacturing iPhones in the USA only added $200 the overhead. It might be way low. My question was only to stimulate discussion because I think it is a valid question, even if it is not a practical business move. Thank you for your contribution.

        3. Your theory is incorrect. Check out Brazil!!! Foxconn just built a plant there. There’s little hi tech going on in Brazil, and their cost of labor (socialist regime) is high.

          Why does it make sense to open a plant in Brazil?????

          Because they have ridiculously high import tariffs. It is really hard to do business in Brazil with all of the absurd government and banking rules, so trust me, Foxconn didn’t go there because Brazil is cheap or more flexible. Brazil doesn’t qualify on either count.

          Free Trade Anyone??

  6. Bemoaning about the morality of Chinese labor isn’t going to change it. People already know that slavery is wrong, but they will keep manufacturing in China because there is a massive financial incentive to do so.

    Economics determine world events, not morality. The only way Chinese manufacturing will decline is if it becomes more expensive to use Chinese labor, and less expensive to manufacture domestically.

    1. I used to think it was that simple, just move the jobs back to the US using tariff’s to make Chinese work more expensive, but, alas, it’s not. The US manufacturing infrastructure has been gutted, the education system doesn’t turn out enough qualified applicants so it is now, and, likely, forever impossible for the United States of America to marshall the forces required to even produce 1/3 of what Foxconn produces daily.

      It’s a resource problem more than anything else and, having a LOT of said resources (that have been at least capably educated) makes the economic and morality points moot. Now, once there is an ALTERNATIVE to Foxconn, then it’s an economic or moral decision. Right now, there’s just no other choice…

      … unless we take over China… hmmmm. Nah, not gonna happen.

      1. I don’t have a think tank to investigate the full consequences of putting tariffs on China, but I think if really was that simple, tariffs would have already been placed long ago.

        I’m just saying the situation is never going to change, unless the economics change first. Tariffs on China seem like the most obvious way to change the economics of Chinese manufacturing, but they certainly are not the only option. Like you said, it won’t do much if there is no alternative to Foxconn. Tax cuts for American manufacturers, renovating American factories, reforms to public education, and perhaps shifting military personal and spending away from foreign conflict and in to domestic infrastructure could all be viable options too.

        Perhaps you are right about there being some need to stress the morals. Far too many people are complacent with twenty first century slavery. Many might be unaware that slavery in on the rise world wide, or that it is happening inside the United States. Some even seem to think slavery is okay, as long as they aren’t the slave. A cultural shift regarding slavery seems desperately needed.

        But, trying to change how others view the world morally is extremely difficult, imprecise, doesn’t guarantee results, and can easily backfire. Economics, with its hard mathematical facts and proven historical significance, I think is the more pragmatic solution for drastic sociopolitical change.

    2. How the Fuck is low paying jobs in a low cost environment slave labor? If the cost of living in China is way lower than the wages and benefits they receive, then they aren’t slaves.

      American Labor thinks that anything below $60,000 a year, wages and benefits, is slave labor. WTF.

      1. From what I understand, it can work by promising workers wages so they agree to work for you, then coming up with various fees such as for water and shelter and other things, deducting fees straight from salaries so that workers are actually paid nothing and forced into debt, mercilessly beating workers who attempt escape or complain, and threatening to kill the families of workers who try to escape or contact authorities. I’m not exactly sure what slavery is like in China, but that’s how they do it in Florida.

        1. Yes but thats not what’s happening at Foxconn. Employees there make more then just about anyone else in China doing the same kind of labor. They often support their entire family on such an income. They’re not slaves and the working conditions there are better then most similar jobs in China. Apple has been a big reason conditions are so nice at Foxconn.

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