Employees work at a Foxconn factory in Wuhan, Hubei province (Reuters)
Apple Inc. used child labor in the making of its products by employing 106 underage workers across 11 facilitates in 2012, an internal audit revealed. According to a report, the company also discovered wage problems and forced pregnancy tests.
Apple’s annual ‘Supplier Responsibility’ report, which includes nearly 400 audits, 72 per cent more than in 2011, reviewed sites where over 1.5 million workers make some of the world’s leading products, including iPhone and iPad.
In addition to 106 underage children that were employed, the report discovered 70 more that either left or passed the age of 16 by the time of the audit.
Seventy-four of 106 underage individuals were employed by a single Chinese manufacturer, Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics, responsible for producing circuit-board components for Apple.
The California-based company terminated work with all of the underage individuals following the investigation into the matter.
Inquiry revealed that a labor agency, Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources, “knowingly” provided children with fake records after conspiring with families to forge identification documents, the report stated.
Upon discovery, Apple reported the labor agency to local authorities.
Instances triggered by working conditions in Apple’s supply facilities overseas:
July 2009: A Foxconn worker fell from apartment building after reportedly losing an iPhone prototype. 18 more workers were linked to attempted suicides in 2010 and over the next two years.
2010: 137 workers were injured by poisonous chemical, n-hexane, used to clean iPhone screens at Suzhou facility, owned by Apple suppliers Wintek.
May 2011: Four workers died and 18 injured in dust explosion at Foxconn factory that produces iPad parts in Chengdu, China.
December 2011: 61 workers were injured in a gas explosion in Shanghai, China at Riteng Computer Accessory Co factory that makes iPad 2 back panels.
September 2012: A fight involving up to 2,000 workers forced Foxconn to close a plant in Shanxi province in northern China.
The children’s age was not disclosed, but according to Apple’s code of conduct, the company cannot employ workers under the age of 15, or under the legal working age in any given jurisdiction, which is 16 years old in China.
“Our approach to underage labor is clear: We don’t tolerate it, and we’re working to eradicate it from our industry,” report said.
Apple demanded that all the underage workers be returned to their families and the employer was “required to pay expenses to facilitate their successful return”, including education fees.The company instructed the suppliers to reimburse excessive recruitment fees amounting to higher than one month’s wages.
Other offences noted in the report included 34 suppliers demanding mandatory pregnancy tests, eight factories implementing wage confiscation from bonded workers to pay off debts imposed by recruitment agencies, 90 workplaces docking wages as punishment, and one supplier dumping waste oil down toilets.
In the past, Apple has faced criticism of profiteering off severely underpaid workers and bad working conditions overseas.
Apple’s report was commissioned under Chief Executive Tim Cook shortly after a series of at least 18 employee suicides in China linked to working conditions at Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that puts together iPads and iPhones, and a number of explosions at other plants.