Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard are launching investigations into its suppliers after multiple suicides and a wave of reports suggest the manufacturers operate under sweatshop conditions.
Many consumer electronics companies have its products manufactured in China or Taiwan because it costs a lot less to manufacture there than in the United States or nearly any other country. Hon Hai Precision Company, the parent of Foxconn, is a major player and has been responsible for making things like the iPhone. Recently, there have been a spate of reports decrying the conditions in these factories and there has already been nine suicide attempts by workers over the last year. Remember, this is the same company that had a worker commit suicide after losing some prototype iPhones last year.
Apple seems to be taking an interest in the condition, or at least an interest in doing damage control with its public relations team.
“We are saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn,” Apple said in a statement to Bloomberg. “Apple is deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity. We are in direct contact with Foxconn senior management and we believe they are taking this matter very seriously.”
HP said it is investigating these “tragic events,” and Dell said it routinely inspects poor working conditions associated with its supply chain. Both companies have used Foxconn to make products like laptops.
Of course, there are always at least two sides to every story, so how are the Foxconn conditions perceived in China? Well, in an editorial, the China Daily Newspaper said the manufacturing plants aren’t necessarily sweatshops but “that does not mean [Foxconn] is showing enough humanitarian concern for its employees. And, neither does it imply that it is doing enough to foster a corporate culture that helps employees strike a healthier work-life balance.”
The bottom line is that conditions aren’t going to change unless we accept that these shiny new gadgets can’t cost this little without sacrificing something.