February has not been a good month for the Apple supply chain. After the assault, the arson, and the poisonings, now Apple's annual supplier report reveals that this year 11 minors were found working in factories that manufacture their products.
The 24-page report is full of bad news. The worst of it: three different factories Apple uses to manufacture parts employed 15 year old workers, 11 minors total, in countries that had a minimum working age of 16.
Other unsavory findings include over 50 factories keeping workers on the job for longer than the maximum 60 hour work week and at least 24 factories paying workers less than the minimum wage. Stuff that would be bad normally but doesn't seem quite as bad in light of the child labor: only 61% of the factories Apple uses were following correct safety regulations and only 57% had the necessary environmental permits for operation.
Apple didn't reveal which factories were culpable, or the nations in which these facilities were located—they contract independent factories in China, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, the Czech Republic and the United States—but they are still using them to manufacture their products. Apple confirmed that the child laborers are no longer employed.
Apple's no stranger to supply chain controversy, and all of these details come right from their own supplier responsibility report. 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. Hopefully these latest discoveries are enough to start that process. [Telegraph and Bloomberg]
Many commenters have made some good points about Apple's report and how it should be received. To be fair, these discoveries did come from Apple's own audits of the factories it uses. I changed the title of the post to better reflect that. But the reason they're performing those audits in the first place is to rectify their image when it comes to overseas labor. It's great that Apple's putting more resources into finding these problems, and it's admirable that the company is making this process public. But with such a long running history of ugly supply chain incidents, it's discouraging that the audits found conditions to still be as unfavorable as they are.
We got an eye-opening look at Apple's attitude toward manufacturing when a tipster recently told us Steve Jobs' mantra circa 1996: "Apple will be the Nike of consumer electronics." I'm glad that the company's trying to clean up their act, but with a legacy like that, it's hard for me to applaud them for admitting they found underage workers.
Image credit gnta