Low wages, long hours for iPod factory workers | iLounge News


Low wages, long hours for iPod factory workers

The UK’s Mail on Sunday has published a report (not yet available online) that offers a look inside the Foxconn-owned iPod factories in China. Macworld UK says the newspaper’s report reveals that an iPod plant in Longhua houses 200,000 workers, who work 15-hour days for $50 per month. The workers reportedly live in dormitories that house 100 people each, and that outside visitors are not permitted. The Mail reports that the iPod nano is made in a five-story factory that is secured by police officers. The article also says that workers at an iPod shuffle factory in Shanghai are housed outside the plant, and earn $100 per month—but that they must pay for their housing and food, “which takes up half their salaries.”

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Those same workers were making nothing before the ipod factory came in.  70 years ago Americans were living in the same conditions during the great depression. 
Their economy has to start somewhere.

Posted by Chris on June 12, 2006 at 12:47 PM (CDT)


Warren Piece, if you actually believe that the iPod’s price doesn’t include a 30%-40% profit margin, then you are sorely ignorant of the real world, my friend. The iPod is $300 because there’s demand, not because Apple’s barely scraping by with barrel-scraping Chinese wages. Go learn about the real world and stop hanging on every word coming out of Jobs’ mouth.

But, I must say that “$50 a month” isn’t as horrible as it seems. In China, 1 yuan can buy about the same amount of common items as 1 dollar in the US. So, multiply that $50 figure by 8 to account for price parity.

$400 a month suddenly doesn’t sound as bad, now does it?

@ RealReply: Good catch!

As for those who are saying “Stop beating up on Apple! Other people do it, too!” Get over yourself. If everyone’s going 10 mph over the speed limit, and you get caught, do you really think you can get away with “But, officer, you need to pull over the eight cars in front of me, too!”

@ dammskog: Socialism doesn’t work. It’s nice and happy on paper, but the real world blows gaping holes in the theory.

Posted by John Wayne on June 12, 2006 at 12:55 PM (CDT)


People always target the biggest most successful comapanies. Mcdonalds is always getting in trouble, Coca cola always being told off, now that apple are one of the best comapnies in the world people are jeoulous and trying to ruin their success. I love ronald mcdonald and i love the cola bear at christmas but what i love more is apple and Jobs. Why dont the mail on sunday just do what theyre good at and moan at Sven Goran Ericsson!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Azhar on June 12, 2006 at 12:56 PM (CDT)


People, please. Whatever your veiws, I think we can all feel good about this: the fact that *I* don’t live in China.

Posted by multimoog on June 12, 2006 at 1:19 PM (CDT)


All I know is that those workers in China should be getting paid decent if that means $50-$100 a month.

I don’t think people seem to realize that America practically invented third world labor.

And in a way it just seems kind of silly since there are alot of unemployed people living in America. What can we do for them if we gave most of our jobs to other countries? Are we on a path where we won’t need to work anymore? haha

Posted by Jonathan on June 12, 2006 at 1:36 PM (CDT)


Jonathan - you gotta quit believing everything the media spoon-feeds you.  Open your eyes and look around a little bit.

Around here (Atlanta), discount retailers like Michael’s are paying inexperienced teenagers over $7.50 an hour in order to get enough workers.  Half the places around here have help-wanted signs in the window.  The Jobs section in the newspaper is the largest section most Sunday’s.

Current unemployment rate is 4.6%—pretty much full employment.  Average unemployment rate through the 1990’s was 5.7% - almost 25% higher then than now.  http://www.dol.gov

BTW, If there are no jobs available, what are the millions of why are so many people streaming across the US borders illegally to come work here?  They’re not risking life and limb if there aren’t jobs to work and money to be made.

Posted by good grief on June 12, 2006 at 2:16 PM (CDT)


Speaking seriously, I live and work in a major American city, and my food and housing costs take up more than half my wages every month. Are people supposed to feel bad for me?

Posted by multimoog on June 12, 2006 at 2:19 PM (CDT)


The way I see it is thus. Although they are being paid $50, you must realise that that is based around their entire economy, as someone prior mentioned, it costs 10cents to buy a meal, it’s priced accordingly as to what people earn, and it makes sense.

Say I rent a house for £400 a month, and earn £8-900 a month, then thats half my wages, food, living costs etc take up the rest of my expenses. So yeh, they aren’t being paid minimum wage according to our standard of living. The minimum wage in England for under 18 year olds is pretty much useless, you get almost nothing, £3 (~$6) for what it’s worth. Could you live off that sort of wage? No, of course not, so whats the difference? The only difference is £3 in England will buy you a subway sandwich and £3 in China would buy you a 3 or 4 course meal…

Awaiting more ‘capitalism sux’ posts from teenage rebels. Let russia proove that various other methods do not work, there will always be greedy people, and they will always be at the top of the chain, so more people end up being screwed over with socialism…

Posted by silver_haze20 on June 12, 2006 at 3:18 PM (CDT)


wow, you can cut the sarcasm with a knife in half these comments.

Posted by Aaron on June 12, 2006 at 3:43 PM (CDT)


I live in a country where the minimum wage is $350 (Ex-Socialistic) Slovakia. You can call us the second world. I remember Socialism and I lived in the USA for several years and I have to say that capitalism rules. We have here low paid labour so western companies move their factories here and then when the minimum wage will grow sufficiently uin Slovakia, they move to asia. I can’t say that it is bad that they give us work and the unnemployment rate is the lowest in our 17 year capitalism history. If I could compare the Chinese worker who gets $100 and gets a meal for 10c and us with 350 bucks and the living expences of 85% the Western world, who is the poor guy now? Even thought I love the Apple products and I will continue to buy them.

Posted by Matej Ftacnik on June 12, 2006 at 3:50 PM (CDT)


I’m interested in someone passing this along to Bono of U2 considering they just (re)announced that U2 iPod.

It comes down to the fiction versus the reality. As Code Monkey said: Apple tries hard to be the “cool hipsters” on the tech block. They lead initiatives that are supposed to show off how “responsible” they are (environmentally friendly manufacturing is the one that most recently comes to mind).

Just because “everyone does it” does not make it any more morally reprehensible. “Everyone” used to hire slaves and indentured servants. “Everyone” used to fish entire species into extinction. “[Every Country]” used to be constantly at war with its neighbors to take land.

And I don’t buy that argument of payment commesurate with economy. Yeah half their income goes to room and board, sure, but who OWNS that room and board in that corporate factory town, I wonder? And 15 hour shifts? In my workplace if you get hooked into a 12 hour shift you only work 3 or 4 days out of the week. These sweatshop workers are doing this 6 days out of the week.

If Apple really did want to “think different” they’d fix this. I don’t go to Walmart because I don’t like the suppliers’ behavior. That means I end up paying more for everyday items. I’d willfully pay more in prepaid pennance for an iPod to know nobody was exploited for it.

Posted by Iie on June 12, 2006 at 4:16 PM (CDT)


Well, duhh, if Chinese workers don’t want to work for $50/mo, why don’t they walk across the street and earn $100k/yr working a proffessional job?  What’s that you say?  $50/hr is their only opportunity?  Without that, they’d make nothing? 

Well, seems that they have their choice, eh?

Posted by Chris on June 12, 2006 at 5:23 PM (CDT)


John Wayne:

Oh, I _know_ about profit margins. And I definitely know about the “real world”. I’m creative director for an advertising agency. I sell crap to people that don’t know they need it yet.

I have no illusions as to how a mercantilist society works. Hell, I’m responsible for half the crap in landfills. Donating $80 a month to Greenpeace, and $160 to the WWF helps my conscience a tiny bit. All I was trying to point out is that (sadly) this is how the/our world works.

In an ideal world we all share profits, and love each other and there is no pay disparity blahblah. It doesn’t work. Once someone gets a taste of money or power it’s all over. This world was built on the backs of the poor. Cuba’s communist system isn’t working - I’ve seen it first-hand. China’s communist system obviously isn’t working, as loopholes allow for billionaire moguls to set-up offshore.

Understand that I _truly_ would love to live in a world that many hope for. It’s a better world for my baby boy, and one I’d love to see him grow up in, but it can’t and won’t exist.

In the end, though, it will be China that has the last laugh. In a couple of years when China decides they want to cash in all those US bonds they have been amassing in the trillions, and an already cash-strapped (because of Bush, now in the trillions) US has to pay for them, the US is fooked.

Posted by Warren Piece on June 12, 2006 at 6:49 PM (CDT)


I assume this isn’t forced labor - that those workers are there BY CHOICE. Presumably, this is a better life than they could have subsistance farming, or working at some other factory, or any of the other options available to them. If not, they should do something else.

$50/month may sound like low wages to someone in the US, but a $250K house probably sounds like an emperor’s palace in China.

Posted by m.s. on June 12, 2006 at 6:51 PM (CDT)


It does suck but there’s no shortage of Chinese workers for those $50 a month jobs.  Many come from rural areas where survival just on the crops they farm is uncertain.

Many factory workers in southeast China send money back home so their family could survive.

That is why all the factory jobs in the US have been moved over there, because companies can save a lot in labor costs from almost an endless supply of cheap labor.

And some of those wealthy Chinese driving those BMWs and Bentleys are the ones getting rich from exploiting their countrymen (actually, most of them are young women doing assembly work at these factories).

Posted by wco81 in West Coast on June 12, 2006 at 7:15 PM (CDT)


I look forward to reading the Mail’s original article. (It doesn’t seem to be available online yet.) I can only hope that they have journalistic standards and provide some context to the reader.

If you discuss their wages and conditions in China, the average Western reader has nothing to compare it to except their own lives. And that’s an apples-and-oranges comparison.

Could I have a decent life on $50 a month, living in Las Vegas? Of course not! Although I’ve worked slightly longer hours than that for 50+ straight days ...

For proper context, the article should also reference working conditions in comparable factories, and the standard of living. I understand why they’re focusing on Apple here (makes good headlines), but show some responsibility by mentioning other companies as well, whether they’re doing the same, better, or worse than Apple in the same regard.

For example, it would be interesting to know whether all MP3 players are made under similar conditions. Or if someone like Creative treats their factory workers better than Apple does.

Do your research, and write a thorough article. That way the opposition won’t be able to defend themselves by refuting the most basic facts—they’ll have to face the harder issues.

Posted by BJ Nemeth on June 12, 2006 at 7:35 PM (CDT)


What I gather from all the comments is that everyone is looking to blame someone else (e.g. “other” corporations are doing it too, U.S also had its own dark ages of labor, etc).

But you know what, we all are guilty.  That includes us, the iPod users.  Not accepting personal responsibilty and avoiding action so we can enjoy listening to our iPods.

Whatever happened to us?

Posted by Scott on June 12, 2006 at 9:36 PM (CDT)


Why isn’t anyone up in arms at China?  Aren’t THEY the problem here?  They have a big history of human rights violations, and they are still a communist county.  Apple is not breaking any laws.  China is permitting them to do this (factory secured by police).  Yea - it does make Apple guilty by being in bed with China, but if you want to kill the problem - go after the ringmaster, not the clowns.

And stop squabbling about what other people make.  I don’t hear anyone complaing about what their neighbors in the States make compared to them.  Someone will always make more (or less) than you - period.  The world will never, ever be equal pay for everyone.

Posted by Mr. Anderson on June 12, 2006 at 9:37 PM (CDT)


A British tabloid has a scoop? Is this another example of their typical accuracy?

Does it really take 200,000 workers to manufacture the IPOD?  Hmm, seems rather unlikely to me.  Makes one question anything else they “report”  Also, what’s with the building being protected by police officers? Are they keeping people in or out? Wonder how well Creative pays their workers?

Posted by tbsteph on June 12, 2006 at 11:21 PM (CDT)


geopolitics and macroeconomics aside, what this boils down to is two main points:

A) popular products that have fascinated a large portion of consumer culture make for good copy

B) dirt on anyone or anything popular does likewise. 

articles like the one mentioned are not so much about raising public awareness of what kind of company they’re buying products from (a profit-driven one, most likely) or trying to incite some kind of action.  They;re about selling more tabloids so tabloid-makers can sell adspace. 

what i’m more interested in are the statistics on how many people are actually shocked and upset by stories like that anymore.

Posted by morose on June 12, 2006 at 11:42 PM (CDT)

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