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Apple found that 3 of its 102 parts and manufacturing partners used child labor to help build the company's best-selling iPods, iPhones, and Macs.  (Source: Apple)

The report's brutal honesty is sure to draw criticism of Apple, but it's important to remember that Apple is demanding its suppliers make changes and is one of the few in the industry not to cast a blind eye to human rights violations.  (Source: China Smack)
Company is seeking to correct abusive suppliers

Apple last week aired its annual evaluation of its supplier's compliance with its supplier standards program.  The program is designed to discourage practices like child labor and substandard living and working conditions among the company's suppliers worldwide.  The company employs independent investigative firms like Verité, to investigate it suppliers.

The new report found major violations at many suppliers, including the use of child labor.

The report describes, "Apple discovered three facilities that had previously hired 15-year-old workers in countries where the minimum age for employment is 16.  Across the three facilities, our auditors found records of 11 workers who had been hired prior to reaching the legal age, although the workers were no longer underage or no longer in active employment at the time of our audit.  One facility attempted to conceal evidence of historical cases of underage labor.  Two other facilities presented falsified records that concealed evidence of violations of Apple's Code regarding working hours and days of rest."

Many suspect that at least one of the plants belonged to Foxconn, one of Apple's biggest suppliers, who already is in a lot of trouble for the suspicious death of an employee who lost and iPhone prototype and for beating a foreign correspondent who was trying to do a news story on Apple. 

Many will be quick to attack Apple for its admission that child labor was found to be used to build the company's iPods, iPhones, and Macs at three of its 102 plants worldwide.  It's important to bear in mind, though, that most companies who contract suppliers in China or other developing nations merely turn a blind eye to rights violations.  Apple is one of the few who actually looks into its working conditions and as a result of its openness is perhaps unduly receiving negative public perception.

Aside from child labor, there were a wealth of other violations.  Apple says it "found records that indicated workers had exceeded weekly work-hour limits more than 50 percent of the time. Similarly, at 65 facilities, more than half of the records we reviewed indicated that workers had worked more than six consecutive days at least once per month."

At least one of the suppliers involved had been found guilty of violations in 2008 as well.  Apple reports that it has severed its relationship with the firm.  Writes Apple, "When Apple investigated further, we uncovered additional records and conducted worker interviews that revealed excessive working hours and seven days of continuous work. When confronted with this information, the facility provided Apple with accurate timecards. Based on the repeat core violation and inadequate actions, Apple is terminating all business with this facility."

Another common violation was underpaying workers.  Apple reports, "At 48 of the facilities audited, we found that overtime wages had been calculated improperly, resulting in underpayment of overtime wages.  At 24 facilities, our auditors found that workers had been paid less than minimum wage for regular working hours."

The audited plants were in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Philippines and the U.S., though Apple did not reveal exact locations or the name of the suppliers. 

The full report, Supplier Responsibility, is available here (PDF).

One can only hope that people view Apple's honest evaluation of its own supply chain's shortcomings in a positive light -- otherwise other firms will have little incentive to similarly monitor their own supply chains for abuse.

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RE: I'm not defending Apple but...
By MPE on 3/3/2010 9:31:51 AM , Rating: 2
Common practice does not make it legal or moral.

RE: I'm not defending Apple but...
By whiskerwill on 3/3/2010 11:01:47 AM , Rating: 3
Your emotionally slanted world view doesn't might it immoral either.

I began helping my father in his business at age 15. I don't seem to be too exploited or emotionally scarred because of it.

Today there are plenty of 14-15 year olds spending 40+ hours a week hard at work bent over their Xbox controllers. If some of them instead spent just a few of those hours in honest work, they'd be a lot better off, and I don't think the world would come to and end either.

RE: I'm not defending Apple but...
By smackababy on 3/3/2010 11:51:16 AM , Rating: 1
The problem with your analogy is you're comparing AMERICAN working conditions with those in a country known for violating human rights. You think forcing children (because you know they didn't apply for this job...) to work in horrible conditions making $0.20 a day is good for them?

RE: I'm not defending Apple but...
By callmeroy on 3/3/2010 12:12:00 PM , Rating: 1

The poster above is making an apples to oranges comparison. Saying 'well my friends and I worked for our parents at 14 what's the big deal'.....well first so have I...i started worked at 14, have been working one job or another ever since (I'm in my mid 30's today). There's a SIGNIFICANT difference however to working conditions in this country versus other countries.

If you honestly think the 30 hours you worked per week (or however many you claim....I tend to call BS btw at the notion of working 40 hours a week as a teenager in this country....its RARE very RARE you'll find a young teen working 40 hours a week in the USA - heck most of them barely hold jobs that are 20 hours a week) as a young teen in this country is the same level of harshness as in some of these Asian and 3rd world nations....then WOW you are pretty naive...

RE: I'm not defending Apple but...
By whiskerwill on 3/3/2010 12:43:35 PM , Rating: 5
The point you're missing is that there is a significant difference in LIVING conditions between the two countries.

Try being 15 in rural China, living in a hand-built hut with no running water, an outside toilet, 3 old t-shirts and one pair of patched pants for clothes, one 1979 model TV shared by everyone in your entire village, both your parents working 75 hours a week in the rice paddies, and the same future staring you in the face.

Then a job in a nice clean factory starts to look pretty good. When you find out you're out of the hot sun, don't have to do any backbreaking labor like mom and dad, AND you get paid four times as much, it starts to look great.

By porkpie on 3/3/2010 12:57:44 PM , Rating: 5
Having lived in Asia, I always laugh at these starry-eyed idealists who believe they're somehow releasing these kids from bondage. They seem to think that once these kids lose their assembly line jobs, they'll spend their time frolicking through fields or sitting in a classroom with clean clothes and fresh-scrubbed faces.

The sad fact is that nearly all these affected teens are going to wind up either homeless, or doing something much more dangerous and illegal working on the streets in Shanghai.

By porkpie on 3/3/2010 1:03:26 PM , Rating: 2
What's even more amusing is the photo used for the article...showing a child doing hard manual labor in the rice fields.

In other words, exactly what they'd be doing if it wasn't for their much easier and better paid job assembling iPhones.

RE: I'm not defending Apple but...
By whiskerwill on 3/3/2010 12:19:59 PM , Rating: 2
Talk about proving my point about emotional responses.

First of all, these kids weren't forced to work by this company. Even insinuating that is just stupid. In some cases, their parents might (and I emphasize "might" here) have forced their kids to work, but most of them probably just wanted a job. Try being 15 in China with your parents living in a hut, no money to buy you decent clothes and send you to school, much less a car, a computer, or a cell phone.. A job at Foxconn looks pretty damn good under those conditions.

Secondly, they weren't making "20 cents a day". They were making the standard wage, which is a hell of a lot better than they'd make working in some rice paddy somewhere (which is what they'd be doing otherwise).

Thirdly, the "horrible conditions" is another piece of stupidity. They were working on an electronics assembly line, in clean sanitary well-lit conditions, doing nothing strenous at all. Conditions probably ten times better than what they have at home.

You want to speak out against child labor fine. But try to be honest about it.

RE: I'm not defending Apple but...
By ClownPuncher on 3/3/2010 12:51:30 PM , Rating: 2
At age 15, I don't see the big deal. Now, if some of the kids were younger, I could definitely see the problem with that. Though if these kids were being paid less than the minimum wage for their area, it does seem like exploitation. If the kids were under the legal working age, there should be fines, but I have no moral outrage concerning 15 year olds having jobs.

I started work here in the USA at 14, now admittedly my working conditions were likely better than you find in many parts of China. I wasn't ever forced to work, it wasn't to supplement my families income either.

By porkpie on 3/3/2010 1:22:46 PM , Rating: 3
Our most famous President, Abraham Lincoln, began hard labor helping to clear fields starting at age 7. By age 10, he was spending most of every day doing it. He only managed 18 months of formal schooling his entire life.

Admittedly that was the 19th century. But most of China is still in 19th century living conditions...and jobs like Foxconn is offering are the only way they'll ever get out of it.

RE: I'm not defending Apple but...
By rdhood on 3/3/2010 2:38:03 PM , Rating: 2
Secondly, they weren't making "20 cents a day". They were making the standard wage, which is a hell of a lot better than they'd make working in some rice paddy somewhere (which is what they'd be doing otherwise).

Exactly. We live in an imperfect world. If the choice is making iPods, starving, or child prostitution, I'd think making iPods would be preferable. To the billions of people in poverty, these are (iPod) jobs sent from heaven.

I am not justifying it... I am simply looking at the realities of 7 billion people on the planet. We can't know where and how every part of every product that we purchase is made. We can't purchase a car, a toy, an electronics item, or even dog food and know that no child labor or sweat shops were involved.

This is what we CAN know: If the entire world stopped buying all products made with child labor, many of those children would starve to death or would otherwise be much worse off.

By afkrotch on 3/3/2010 10:43:16 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe Apple and some other companies need to setup shop in the Phillipines. Where a large number of your 15 year old girls decide to take up prostitution to make money.

By forgotmypassword on 3/3/2010 1:12:07 PM , Rating: 3
I'm pretty sure they did apply for the job and as others said already working at Foxconn is much better than rice fields. Please don't mix African 12 year old soldiers and Chinese electronics factories.

By afkrotch on 3/3/2010 10:38:52 PM , Rating: 2
Tell me after you've run around a field with a 5 gallon tank of propane on your back, a flame thrower on the hose, and it's 90 degrees outside and you're burning weeds. All for $0.00 cents a day.

Sorry, but a lot of kids in the states work on their parent's farms in bad conditions. Sometimes probably worse than these kids in other countries, most times not though.

My dad's from Laos and he raised me like he was there. Child abuse laws be damned. And you know what? I personally think I'm a better person for it.

I always laugh when ppl go crazy over something like that American who got caned for graffiti in Indonesia or wherever it was. I've had worse.

By forgotmypassword on 3/3/2010 1:12:38 PM , Rating: 2
It's illegal but not immoral.

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs

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