Thursday, November 4, 2010

the cost of apple

My friend, Alex’s response to my last blog post (via Facebook) led me to read about Foxconn—an electronics company owned by the Taiwanese group Hon Hai—and working conditions at their Shenzen, China “plant.” I put “plant” in quotations marks because this place is more like a city than a factory. About 300,000 people work in this location and live on the campus or very close by.

There are several interesting aspects of this situation.

First, Foxconn is a major provider of Apple products. They also supply Dell and HP and many others. But they are Apple’s primary source of products and Apple is their largest client. The company has had complaints against it in the past, resulting in an audit of the company by Apple: All in all, the audit was pretty positive and it sounded as if all the problems that were occurring at the time would be rectified shortly. That was in 2006.

On the surface, the Foxconn campus looks like a super-cool college dorm, except instead of going to class, you work incredibly long hours (more on that in a minute).

Click on the link below to view more pictures of the Foxconn “plant.”

The line workers at Foxconn were, until recently, paid China’s minimum wage: $140 per month. Most of the workers make over double that, though, through CONSTANT OVERTIME. This is not “forced” overtime, but without it, these people are only bringing in $140/month! So, for what it costs an American to buy one iPhone, a Chinese worker has to put in crazy overtime for one month. And according to that Apple audit in 2006: “The single largest complaint (approximately 20% of interviewed workers) was the lack of overtime during non-peak periods.”

Foxconn’s employees are working incredibly hard. Unfortunately, some of them have not been able to handle the stress and since the beginning of 2010, ten workers have commit suicide. Following is an excellent look at the current situation by the Financial Times:

It is obvious that even with the amenities, free housing, and opportunities for overtime and advancement, the repetitive work is not satisfactory to many employees. What can Foxconn do to make its workers happier? The company has decided to increase wages by about 20% for most employees. And as a result of this, Foxconn is raising its prices to Apple, etc. (All the boring business details here: )

So, what do you all think? Is raising salaries going to stop people from committing suicide? Do you think people were killing themselves because they didn’t think they were making enough money? What else could/should Foxconn do to increase worker satisfaction? Is Foxconn’s treatment of their workers a human rights concern? Is it a violation of Chinese human rights that their labor is worth so much less than American’s? Is this communism’s fault? Is this capitalism’s fault? What say you?

1 comment:

  1. Another report from Gizmodo about foxconn:

    The more I read about this situation, the more it seems to be a definite human rights issue.