Apple has published a regular update to its Labor and Human Rights page to detailing its efforts to stop suppliers in its chain, like Foxconn in China, from forcing workers to put in long hours.
Apple’s December update notes that it is now tracking 1 million workers — up from 900k in November and 500k when the program began in January. Apple requires that workers never work more than 60 hours in a week, which is in line with Chinese labor law. Unfortunately, it saw a drop in compliance from October’s 90% mark, back to the 88% levels of September. This is also down from the August high of 97%.
Much of this backslide is likely due to the rush to get the iPhone 5, iPod touch 5th gen, iPad mini and iPad 4 out to customers. Apple notes that “In limited peak periods, we allow work beyond the 60 hour limit for those employees that volunteer to do so.” That allowance has pushed Apple’s compliance levels down.
The drop is disappointing, but the fact of the matter remains that there are no other technology companies, especially ones as big as Apple, that are offering this kind of transparency when it comes to working hours. The company has come under a lot of criticism, which I’ve included as a linked summary of sorts below, but it has responded with an extraordinary level of communication. A few more companies taking this kind of responsibility couldn’t hurt in the slightest.
Apple factories in China came under scrutiny after a set of articles in The New York Times, including How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work and In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad. Joel Johnson’s 1 Million Workers. 90 Million iPhones. 17 Suicides. Who’s to Blame? article in Wired was also cited by many.
In January 13 of this year, Apple became the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association, signing an agreement to let the FLA independently assess the quality of Apple’s supply chain. A report from the FLA in August noted that 284 items on its recommended changes list had been complied with and that some 76 remained.
At a conference in February, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that “No one is doing more to improve working conditions in China than Apple,” indicating that the company knew it should be doing more.
Image Credit: Apple