Apple’s labor pains

At the end of every year, Apple releases a report on the labor conditions for its factories overseas. Every year this report, the “Supplier Responsibility Progress Report,” informs the general public on the working conditions for its factories abroad. This report is self-damning evidence that often highlights the mistreatment of its workers, and this year’s report is no different.

The dark side of Apple? Photo from Creative Commons.

The report of conditions for 2011 did not break the trend of previous years. The difference in this report was that Apple managed to reach 80% of their Chinese suppliers and audit the conditions of the companies.

The report lists 91 cases of child labor for the 2011. It also went into detail on the number of suicides and major explosions that took place throughout the Chinese supply line. Some of its top offenders to safety policies were Foxconn and Ri-Teng. Actions were taken based on the report, and many of the plants have since been cleaned up. Even so, there are widespread claims of environmental problems and many local villagers are reportedly being threatened to remain quiet.

Apple is not the only company that produces its products in China; a number of large technology companies such as Dell, HP and Samsung all base their production out of China. These reports of abuse and environmental violation are not just limited to Apple. Apple is just the only company to report on itself.

Many of Apple’s top producers were secret until the release of this report. It gives the public a glimpse into the supply chain which is part of what makes Apple so profitable. These cheaply manufactured goods allow Apple to produce huge profits, and thus make the relationship between them and their manufacturer complicated.

If consumers should take one thing out of this report it is that Apple reports labor and environmental violations, which is more than can be said for other companies. This shows at least a superficial intent on the part of Apple to target these violations and put a stop to them.

Apple may be a control freak about what can and cannot go on to its devices, but it can’t stop what’s going on an ocean away. At least they are taking the steps to improve conditions in these factories and for the people working there and living nearby.