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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 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.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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