Apple is the largest electronics company in the world. Like most of their competitors they manufacture their products, the iPhone, the iPad, etc. under license in China. Why? Because labor is cheap and there are few regulations that restrict exploitation of the workers. If you want to go to the place where the workers are exploited the most go to the so-called “worker’s state,” namely Communist China. Now that China has rediscovered capitalism, they are going thru the same stages that the West went through. In China there are no independent Unions, no independent media and no independent judiciary. Everything is controlled by the State and the Communist Party, and the old communists are very much in bed with the new capitalists.
The company in China used by Apple and many other large electronic companies, including Samsung, is FoxConn, that is owned by a Taiwanese company, but which has at least 5 very large factories in different parts of China. This expose is based on a documentary entitled “Inside Apple” that was shown on the equivalent of PBS (there are several videos on YouTube with this name). They managed to get a camera secretly inside the company’s facilities, although not into the actual working areas, which require that the workers leave all phones and devices behind and pass thru a metal detector. FoxConn employ about 1.4 million people, most of them young, unskilled and uneducated.
These workers are recruited mostly from the rural poor and brought into this factory system where they are housed in the company’s dormitories. They pay from their meager salary for their room and board, as well as their work clothes and implements. Their hours are determined by their bosses, so that some work as much as 20 hr days. They get no vacations and the pressure on them to keep working to earn enough over the cost they have to pay back to the company.is enormous. If they get sick they have to pay for their medical treatment and then often they get into debt. If they try to demonstrate against the system they have been arrested and beaten by the police. Because of the terrible pressure about 18 young people are known to have committed suicide and probably many more.
This system exhibits the worse features of exploitative capitalism which was found in the US and Britain over 100 years ago. For example, to escape investigation FoxConn built a new very large factory in rural China away from the prying eyes of external media. But, the factory was finished before the housing was complete. Workers were forced to live there in open unfinished dormitories, without water and electricity, while working on average 14 hour days. This is as close to slavery in modern times as it gets and it certainly is a denial of human rights.
When asked about these conditions, Apple denies that the conditions are as bad as shown, and further they claim that they are not responsible since they do not own or run FoxConn. It certainly is a contradiction that the owners of Apple support many liberal causes, while at the same time depending on the exploitation of young Chinese workers. However, the bottom may have fallen out of the iPhone market and Apple shares just plummeted b$46. But, I feel less sorry for Apple shareholders than for the Chinese workers who will pay for this loss without any financial protection.