Apple (opens in new tab) recently performed an audit of its workforce with the goal of improving working conditions for its employees. To that end, it published a new document detailing its findings and the responsibilities of its suppliers to give fair treatment and work conditions to its employees. While Apple is making headway in improving work conditions, the company still found numerous violations of company policy in the work places.
Apple employs an enormous work force of around 1.6 million people worldwide. Last year, Apple found 16 cases of child labor violations inside of its factories.
In addition to the child labor cases, Apple tracked 1.1 million employees and found that a large number of them are being forced to work a dangerous number of hours each week. Apple dictates that the maximum working week should be 60 hours, and while only 8 percent of its employees worked longer hours, that still adds up to 88,000 of those tracked, and potentially 128,000 worldwide.
Some employees were found to be forced into bonded labor with factories. Bonded labor is a situation which occurs when people owe a debt far beyond their ability to pay and are forced to work as little better than slaves. Apple found that 4,500 people are being forced to work under these conditions, but has vowed to end this practice, forcing guilty suppliers to repay a total of nearly $4 million to the victims.
Apple is also making an attempt to improve supply lines with companies supplying minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. In addition, the company wants to prevent funds from the purchase of these minerals from financing the actions of armed military groups near mineral sources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
To aid in these endeavors, Apple considered simply gathering resources from alternate areas in the world but felt that it wouldn't ultimately help people living in the DRC. As a result, the company has decided the best course of action is to only buy from verified suppliers in the region in the hopes that other suppliers will end their funding of these armed groups to attract business partners.
Clearly, there are areas that require improvement, but the overall findings of the audit are positive for the company. With 99.999999 percent of the work-force being of legal age, and 92 percent working less than Apple's maximum 60 hours a week, the company's records fare better than many other companies in the world. More importantly, it shows that Apple is dedicated to the improvement of these conditions and improving the lives of people near their facilities.
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Actually Apple gets singled out because I know how much Apple squeezes on every bit of the supply chain in order to maximum profits whilst screwing everyone else over. Foxconn has already come out to say that the Apple margin IS by far the lowest of all of the OEM jobs it does (Sony, Nokia, Nintendo whoever else you want to add to the list) AND has the worst time frames possible to do (ie. We give you the designs 3 months in advance of the launch and expect 50 million units thank you). Hence why the main suicides that are happening within it ARE workers who are on the Apple production line as opposed to the others. In order to meet the time frames, they will pull in school kids to do the jobs in order to meet their targets.
You can argue that the Chinese Government is allowing for this to happen but the main cause is the unrealistic demands Apple has.