by Amanda Kloer
Yesterday in their annual report, Apple admitted that it had identified at least 11 children working in overseas factories which produce iPods, iPhones, and computers. In addition to the child labor, illegal and exploitative working conditions for adults exist in some of Apple’s factories as well. Surprisingly, Apple made these findings public themselves in their most recent annual report. But are they doing enough to prevent the exploitation of children and workers in their factories?
In addition to the factories that allowed underage children to work there, some of Apple’s other factories have been called “sweatshops.” The company admitted that just over half of its overseas factories ignore the company policy that employees cannot work more than 60 hours a week. And the factories in China, where the majority are located, regularly break Chinese labor laws which prohibit employees from working more than 49 hours a week. Only 65% of factories were paying the wages and benefits due to workers, and 24 factories in China violated minimum wage laws. One factory even fabricated documentation to hide their underage workers and workers’ rights violations from Apple. Apple has now stopped using that factory.
In response to these findings, Apple has said that the 11 children are no longer employed. They have not clarified, however, whether these kids that were being exploited by their company were unceremoniously tossed back into the pool of potential child laborers or provided some sort of tools or resources to help prevent them from being sucked in by another factory. They also haven’t been very specific about what they plan to do as a company to prevent child labor in the future. And almost no attention has been given to the labor violations against adults working in Apple factories.
Apple certainly gets props for both looking for and fessing up to these issues. Apple is by no means the only electronics company whose products have been made by children or workers who aren’t getting a fair shake. And I would hazard to guess that conditions in Apple factories may even be a little above the norm. But Apple also needs to realize that finding and admitting the problem, while important, is just the first step. As a consumer (and lover) of Apple products, I want to know what they as a company plan to do to prevent these sorts of abuses.
So here is a challenge for you, Apple: be the brightest beacon of corporate social responsibility out there. You’ve already taken the first step of finding and owning your own flaws. Now, tell us all how you intent to fix them. But doing that, you can tout yourselves as one of the most ethical electronics companies out there.
Listen. Can you hear that? It’s the phrase “Fair Trade iPad” drifting in on the wind. You can make it happen Apple. And when you do, I’ll buy it. And so will a lot of other people.
Photo credit: Brianfit