Damn. iPods made in Chinese sweatshops??

There are few things in lfe I truly need. My iPod is one of those things. Please say it isn’t so.

As Mac fan sites buzzed with debate over the report, Apple issued a statement saying it is investigating the matter.

“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 company statement said.

Apple said it is “investigating the allegations regarding working conditions in the iPod manufacturing plant in China.” It added, “We do not tolerate any violations of our supplier code of conduct.”

IPod factory workers are employed by Taiwanese contract manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., also known by the brand Foxconn Electronics Inc. The relationship between Apple and Hon Hai is typical in the electronics industry, where manufacturing is frequently handled by contract builders.

Apple had better move fast. Microsoft is about to launch its own version of the iPod (as always, late to the game), and this could be a great PR platform to woo socially minded customers. Steve Jobs must be having a hard time getting to sleep tonight.

Update: This article (via ESWN) says the hype over the sweatshop charge is just that – hype. It’ll all come out in the wash, I suppose.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

200,000 workers in a single factory? Does the Mail reporter have any idea how big a factory that’ll have to be? Even stuffed 100 to a room, there still needs to be 2000 rooms and that’s only for sleeping. The space needed for work areas would be much much greater than any single 5 story building can offer. And what about storage for enough parts that can keep 200,000 people busy for 15 hours a week? How big would the kitchen and cafeteria need to be to feed 200,000 people? How do they ship that much food? Also, even assuming this factory has incredibly low productivity rate and can only assemble 1 ipod per worker per hour, that’s 3 million ipods produced in a day, or over One BILLION ipods in a year. And this is supposed to be only one of several factories ran by one of several Apple contractors? I think the Mail reporter needs to learn some basic math before trying to make up these numbers.

June 17, 2006 @ 1:23 pm | Comment

I agree with the comment posted above. The sheer numbers involved simply do not add up. Even when you consider that not every worker would actually be producing iPods (when you have managers, janitors, QC, HR, etc.) that figure (200,000) sounds way too high.

June 17, 2006 @ 9:28 pm | Comment

Labor compensation is really terrible in China, but I don’t think these journalist should use lies to fight lies.

First, in the two locations where the journalist claim they investigate (I guess one in Kunshan and the other in Shenzhen), it is impossible to hire assembly workers at $50 /month. It is just impossible, not because the employers are benevolent, but because factories next doors will recruit away all you workers at the prevailing market price if you offer only $ 50/month.

Reading the report carefully (I guess most readers will only remember the headline numbers they throw out instead of finishing the whole report), however, you will find that $50/month is not the wage, but the net saving after deducting expenses as calucauted by the journalists. Should we say that some American workers are paid zero dollars/month because they rarely save money?

Interestingly, the real monthly salary number (about $100 /month) obtained by the journalists (I guess the number should be real, as journalists do not have incentive to over-report the number) meets the minimum wage requirement, which many labor activists believe to be fair but don’t think are actively enforced! The report unexpectedly provides evidence that minimum wage law in China does have teeth!

$100 /month is small sum for British, but it is a lot of money in China. Why don’t the journalist make some attempt to put the number into perspective. In inland provinces, government employees (dream position for most local residents ) are paid $100/month. $300/month is also three times what Indian workers can get.

Why don’t the journalist tell readers what are the alternative income these workers could get if they don’t have a job in the factory? It is a poor country, and $100 /month is exactly the same as the country’s GDP per capita. The average monthly British GDP/per capita is over $2800, will you call a British worker who are paid $2800/month a slave!!

Second, in the past five years, Apple sold 42 million i-Pods. If 200,000 workers are employed to produce i-pods, then each worker produced only 210 i-pods so far. Don’t you think such productivity is ridiculously low. A Washington Post article reveals that the factory is not owned by Apple, but by a contract manufactures Hon Hai precision Industry, also known as Foxconn electronics Inc. Foxconn does employ 200,000 workers, but Apple is only a client, and only small fraction of the 200,000 workforce work on i-pods.

I really don’t know why the journalists want to throw out a sensational number of “200,000 workers”, and the so-called “iPod city” name, just to exploit the popularity of iPod brand name? And “the 200,000 workers in one site” description also tries to get readers to have an impression that all 200,000 workers are fit into one dorm room!

I want to say to the journalist of Mail on Sunday (the U.K. newspaper that reports the story):
The best weapon of journalists is fact and truth, if you degrade yourself to the same level of a lying regime, you bring shame to the whole journalist community!

Interestingly, Mail on Sunday doesn’t put the report online. Are you fearing of sunshine?

June 17, 2006 @ 9:31 pm | Comment

$100 /month is exactly the same as the country�s GDP per capita? This statement is statistically true, but nevertheless misleading. The relevant GDP is about $4,000, for place like Shenzhen – $330 monthly. As per China standard, Shenzhen has sky high price for almost everything.

Another fact is, to actually earn $100 per month, you have to work 150 hours OT monthly. Let’s forget those lazy Brits, ask any people in Beijing or Shanghai if they think working that long hours is legal.

The reporters capitalized on the brand name recognition, but as long as they get their numbers right, I don’t see a problem. Only those Taiwanese !@#$%^!@ckers would find the story to be a problem.

June 18, 2006 @ 5:06 am | Comment

R-Squared is right- I couldn’t find this Mail report online anywhere which is troubling. But then, I’d never trust the Mail anyway. The Mirror on the other hand discusses the issue and, as an example, states that “the iPod Shuffle is put together by Asustek in Suzhou, two hours outside Shanghai at another sprawling site – the size of eight football pitches and employing 50,000 people – bordered by a canal and river and surrounded by barbed wire to deter intruders.” Sounds like a Nazi Death camp, but then I’d assume any place making ipods would do the same to protect them. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/tm_objectid=17226460&method=full&siteid=94762&headline=welcome-to-ipod-city–name_page.html
From what I’ve read (and experienced first-hand) the real scandal is the ipod warranty”
“t doesn’t matter that iPod lovers can spend up to £300 on their gizmo. Apple operates on the basis that the iPod life expectancy is a year, and that’s it. Complain that your £200 or £300 could have bought a fridge or TV that would be expected to last five years or more, and a customer services assistant will explain that a one-year warranty is just that, and no more.”

The article tells of a reader who took “a broken ClickwheeI 40Gb iPod back to the Birmingham Apple Centre. Staff said the cost of repair would exceed the value of the £300 model and refused a free replacement. Arguments that iPods are designed to be portable and take a reasonable amount of wear and tear fell on deaf ears.”
Everyone knows Apple is vastly overcharging its iPods and the company just comes across as so greedy that one can be persuaded easily that it operates Nazi iPod factories in the Chinese interior…

June 18, 2006 @ 5:29 pm | Comment

Sorry- that last quote is from the Guardian- Is your iPod one of the bad Apples?

June 18, 2006 @ 5:31 pm | Comment

Anyways there is a petition to Steve Jobs:


June 19, 2006 @ 6:44 am | Comment

See this article.

June 21, 2006 @ 1:30 am | Comment

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