Apple's child labor report sparks debate

Apple has revealed that some of its suppliers have been using child labor, and other dubious practices. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers alternately cheer and jeer.

By Richi Jennings. March 1, 2010.


Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention a unique Aerosmith cover...     Kyle van Hemert reports:

Apple's annual supplier report reveals that this year 11 minors were found working in factories that manufacture their products. ... Other unsavory findings include over 50 factories keeping workers on the job for longer than the maximum 60 hour work week ... only 61% of the factories Apple uses were following correct safety regulations and only 57% had the necessary environmental permits for operation.


Apple's no stranger to supply chain controversy. ... You'd imagine that at some point people would stop gawking at Apple's supply chain scandals and actually put pressure on them to make some significant changes in their manufacturing.

Prince McLean explains:

The report ... describes the company's efforts to police a "Supplier Code of Conduct" on the companies it contracts with, those companies' own chain of suppliers, and the foreign worker agencies they use. ... The illegal employment of children and abusive hiring practices that impose horrific fees upon foreign workers employed at factories ... essentially reduce them to being indentured servants.


At one facility, Apple discovered that management had actually been falsifying records to make it appear to be compliant with the company's standards. ... Steve Jobs ... passionately argued that the media and environmental groups have ignored the real issues to focus mainly on what promises companies were making, even though many companies do not actually meet their promised goals.

Alex Wilhelm calls apple's history "sketchy":

These most recent admissions will hardly clear Apple’s slate in the public eye. ... The more news that comes out on its labor practices, the worse off Apple appears. ... [It] has tens of billions of dollars in the bank. You would think that they could end the abuse of the workers who are the source of their wealth.

But Ronald O. Carlson throws stones:

There’s an unseemly irony in a nation of fat people that are in debt up to their ears telling people in other countries to adhere to a higher code of conduct. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for such finger wagging, but Americans might be singularly unqualified to lead the effort.


Perhaps my hand ringing over this hand ringing is misplaced. Really, Apple’s a lean mean corporation machine led by a really skinny guy that some believe is a messiah.

And NtroP wishes Apple would mind its own business:

As someone who grew up in a "3rd-world country" I have news for you. Most people are finished with school by age 12. A 15-year-old is considered an adult and often is married and has at least one kid by then. We treat teen-agers like children in the US and Canada and they fulfill that expectation spectacularly - in fact, you aren't a "real" adult until 21 and then insurance companies rape you and you can't rent a car, etc., until you are 25. We put up with and even encourage infantile behavior by our teens and young-adults. And then we impose our beliefs on the rest of the world.


Apple ... talks about these companies hiring workers "as young as 15". Well, that 15-year-old, who very possibly is married with a family and obviously wanted the job ... and obviously capable of doing the job ... otherwise they wouldn't have been hired. ... I would applaud Apple for standing up for what they believe in, but I fear that it's more to appease the ignorant, myopic American public and their America-centric world-view than any real conviction.

BadAnalogyGuy is more succinct:

In these countries, many families struggle to put food on the table. ... Enforcing Western-style regulations ... reeks of condescension.

So what's your take?
Get involved: leave a comment.

And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

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