Unlike most Mac News websites, I wanted to wait to report on a rather important piece of drama to hit the Apple Community recently ... allegations that Apple's China factory that makes iPods has substandard working conditions and that workers only receive roughly the equivalent of $50 A MONTH.
First, before giving you the brief story as many websites reported it and giving you Apple's response, I wanted to give you a brief view of economics in China:
A loaf of bread in the US is roughly $2.25 (checked at PUBLIX.COM)
A loaf of bread (streetside) at a China outdoor market is roughly 5 cents (asked of a regular eBay customer of mine)
Minimum Wage in the US is $5.15
A loaf of bread = 43% of the hourly pay for a US worker.
A loaf of bread = 20% of the hourly pay to a worker in China
So - who gets paid less? US laborers or China laborers?
If we apply this same formula to "the fruit" Apple - a US consumer pays on average .75 cents whereas a Chinese consumer most likely pays somewhere around 2 cents. ( this figure was completely extrapolated and made up, but used the same formula for an actual example as given above )
Think of China as being in the 1940's & 1950's of the US - things cost less and people made less.
Another factoid about Chinese life is that families often live together ... each earning the wages you see here. Families of 2-4 live together communely - actually providing a better than average living. Working in a factory like this has opportunities for career and education advancement ... whereas workers in agriculture (rice fields) most likely would not have this opportunity.
Here is the original sensational story as reported by most websites:
Apple's iPods are made by mainly female workers who earn as little as $50US per month
Called 'iPod City' It offers photographs taken from inside the factories that make Apple music players, situated in China and owned by Foxconn.
The (UK Paper) The Mail visited some of these factories and spoke with staff there. It reports that Foxconn's Longhua plant houses 200,000 workers, remarking: "This iPod City has a population bigger than Newcastle's."
The report claims Longhua's workers live in dormitories that house 100 people, and that visitors from the outside world are not permitted. Workers toil for 15-hours a day to make the iconic music player, the report claims. They earn $50US per month. The report reveals that the iPod nano is made in a five-story factory that is secured by police officers.
Another factory in Suzhou, Shanghai, makes iPod shuffles. The workers are housed outside the plant, and earn $100US per month - but they must pay for their accommodation and food, "which takes up half their salaries", the report observes.
Today, Apple Computer responded:
"Apple is committed to ensuring that working conditions in our supply chain are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible," the statement explains.
The company also explains that it is "currently investigating the allegations regarding working conditions in the iPod manufacturing plant in China".
Apple stresses that: "It does not tolerate any violations of its supplier code of conduct, which is posted online".
This code is modelled on the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct and can be downloaded as a PDF here.
"Recognised standards such as International Labour Organisation Standards (ILO), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Social Accountability International (SAI), and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) were used as references in preparing this code," the company says on its website.
The code of conduct includes a commitment to uphold the human rights of workers, and covers matters including discrimination, harsh treatment and harassment, involuntary and child labour, working hours, remuneration and freedom of association.
Readers, always assume you are not hearing the full story ... that is ... unless you read it here.