NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple's contract manufacturing at Foxconn is getting all of the attention, but the problem is far wider. If you want to find one source of the problem, look in the mirror.
recent uproar about the conditions in
Chinese factories where Apple's iPhones, iPads and iPods are manufactured
is getting a lot of attention, partly because of an article in the New York
great deal more attention is likely due to the lead story that appeared on CBS
Sunday Morning on Jan. 29, in which a network reporter visited Shenzhen, China,
site of the Foxconn factory where Apple's products are assembled.
CBS segment graphically showed the suicide prevention nets at the factory, it
showed workers reportedly as young as 12 who worked shifts as long as 12 to 14
hours a day, six days a week. It also reported on the death of one worker who
died at work after a shift of more than 30 hours. There's no question that
these conditions approach the emotional feeling of slavery, if not the legal
definition. What's missing from the conversation is that Foxconn builds electronics products for a
wide variety of companies, not just Apple.
fact, there's a good chance that the smartphone in your pocket, the laptop on
your desk or the tablet in your briefcase was assembled by Foxconn. If it
wasn't, it was probably assembled by another Chinese contract manufacturer that
operates in a manner similar to Foxconn. Regardless of what company has its
logo on your consumer electronics, it's a virtual certainty that it was manufactured
in China in a factory very similar to the one where your iPad was made.
before we go dumping on Apple for the conditions at Foxconn, maybe it's time
for a reality check. As is usually the case, things with Foxconn aren't what
they necessarily seem. First of all, while Foxconn does indeed have factories
all over China, it also has facilities in a lot of other places, including in
the United States and Europe. In addition, Foxconn isn't the only contract
electronics manufacturer with tens of thousands of Chinese employees working
long hours at low wages. That's pretty much the name of the game in the
consumer electronics industry.
of your iPhone as you would a hamburger-the meat was once part of a living,
breathing animal. Its life was taken so you could have lunch. This is the price
for the type of life we lead, whether it's the price that we pay to buy
something once living that's now a package of hamburger or the price we pay for
a brand-new iPhone.
iPhone was once a collection of parts that is often assembled by children who
will never have time to play, get a decent education or know much about
anything except assembling electronic components until they are too old or worn
out to keep working. We bought that iPhone at a great price without a thought
of what the social costs are in a country half a world away.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.