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Chinese Children May Have Made Your iPhone

Chinese Children May Have Made Your iPhone

After an annual internal audit carried out as part of its Supplier Responsibility Report, Apple has discovered that one of its Chinese suppliers employed 74 workers under 16 years old – quite an increase from the six active cases reported in the previous year. The child labor cases were concentrated in one circuit board supplier, Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics Co. (also known as”PZ”), and Apple has fired the company.

PZ was actually “willfully conspiring” with the families of minors to forge age-verification documents and also with one of the area’s largest labor agencies, Shemzen Quanshun Human Resources. According to Ars Technica, the agency has been reported to the provincial governments of Shenzhen and Heban, had its business license suspended and been levied a fine. The children have all been returned to their families, with PZ required to “pay expenses to facilitate their successful return,” says Apple’s report.

In 2010, Apple had reported 91 total cases of underage labor on its suppliers. In 2011, there were only six active and 13 historical cases of underage labor, so the total of 74 is all the more notable.

Apple has also been under fire for months over reports of suicides, worker protests and unsafe labor conditions at factories run by Foxconn, which produces the iPad, iPhone and other Apple products. Just last September, Foxconn closed one of its plants in northern China after unrest involving some 2,000 workers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook used to be in charge of building Apple’s supply chain, the Guardian notes. Cook has said he considers underage labor “abhorrent” (honestly, could he say it was anything else?) and “extremely rare in our supply chain.” Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior Vice President for operations, has pledged to eliminate the practice.

Nearly 400 suppliers were scrutinized in the audit that led to Apple’s supplier report and 70,000 workers in its four final assembly facilities surveyed. Children were found to be employed at eleven of the factories. A number of other offenses were detailed: eight factories were employing bonded workers, foreign laborers who have paid fees to recruitment agencies and are made to work at factories to pay off their debts. 90 facilities deducted wages to punish workers; 34 required pregnancy testing; 25 mandated medical testing for diseases including hepatitis B.

In addition, waste oil was intentionally dumped “into the restroom receptacle” at one plant.

The report emphasizes that Apple is working to root out cases of underage labor, addressing the numerous safety risks to workers highlighted in media reports and seeking conflict-free minerals for its products. 92 percent of supplier’s facilities were found to be in compliance with a maximum 60-hour work week. Notably, a Silicon Valley facility was named as a site where Apple’s Macintosh computers are assembled — could Apple, wary of so much bad publicity, be starting to look for manufacturing venues where it can keep a far closer eye on the conditions in which its products are assembled?

2013 has not been the kindest to Apple, with media reports of teenagers no longer deeming company’s products trendy (I guess that’s not so surprising given how ubiquitous Apple’s devices have become) and it losing its place as the world’s most valuable company to Exxon.

I’m not happy to hear that child labor could have made the very device I’m writing this post on. Apple’s report motivates me to keep demanding that it and other tech companies be transparent about their labor practices; about whose hands are putting together the products we use in our daily lives.

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Photo from Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights/Flickr

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11:22PM PDT on Jul 12, 2013

The quality of your articles and contents is great.

5:31AM PDT on Jun 5, 2013

Good thing what Apple did after knowing all these is to sue all that companies which were working for them and were involved in child labor. But my question here is that Apple really bothers about this or is just to make a good reputation.

7:21AM PST on Feb 19, 2013

I'm a dinosaur. no call phone! an extra bill? not in the budget

6:19PM PST on Feb 5, 2013

I'm glad that Apple has not only acknowledged the situation, but they are taking ownership and responsibility for it by reacting appropriately. Even though it's not a good thing to have happened, I still think they are respectable for their response to it :)

9:25AM PST on Feb 5, 2013


2:55PM PST on Feb 4, 2013


1:49AM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Puh, got no iPhone (nor other mobile phone) and will never. But cooking pots and stuff.

9:29AM PST on Feb 3, 2013

Despite outsourcing to China, using companies that use child and slave labor; Apple still manages to charge more for it's products than other companies.

3:48AM PST on Feb 3, 2013

I boycott Apple because of it's outsourcing policy.

1:33AM PST on Feb 3, 2013

very interesting article

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