In its recent annual report on suppliers, Apple has admitted to using some child labor in its overseas facilities. At the very least, three of its factories were found to have employed eleven fifteen-year-olds. And it gets worse:
Apple has been repeatedly criticised for using factories that abuse workers and where conditions are poor. Last week, it emerged that 62 workers at a factory that manufactures products for Apple and Nokia had been poisoned by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause muscular degeneration and blur eyesight. Apple has not commented on the problems at the plant, which is run by Wintek, in the Chinese city of Suzhou.
In its report, Apple revealed the sweatshop conditions inside the factories it uses. Apple admitted that at least 55 of the 102 factories that produce its goods were ignoring Apple’s rule that staff cannot work more than 60 hours a week.
The technology company’s own guidelines are already in breach of China’s widely-ignored labour law, which sets out a maximum 49-hour week for workers.
Fortunately, Apple is no longer employing underaged workers — but if anything, the media fixation on the ‘underaged worker’ angle shields Apple from the fallout from the real abuses. Fifteen-year-olds working at factories? Bad, but not devastating: hearing the phrase “child labor” preps you for tales of eight-year-olds with soldering irons. 60+ hour workweeks and poison leaks? Talk about “Beauty outside, beast inside.”