Apple’s Chinese workers treated ‘inhumanely, like machines’

An investigation into the conditions of Chinese workers has revealed the shocking human cost of producing the must-have Apple iPhones and iPads that are now ubiquitous in the west.The research, carried out by two NGOs, has revealed disturbing allegations of excessive working hours and draconian workplace rules at two major plants in southern China. It has also uncovered an “anti-suicide” pledge that workers at the two plants have been urged to sign, after a series of employee deaths last year.To read this report in The Observer in full, see: see:Apple factories accused of exploiting Chinese workers
The spate of suicides made headlines around the world. Last May, seven young Chinese workers producing Apple iPads for consumers across the globe took their own lives, prompting an investigation into working conditions at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, southern China.Nine Chinese sociologists wrote an open letter to the media calling for an end to regimented and restrictive work practices which they condemned as “a model where fundamental human dignity is sacrificed for development”. Were humans harmed in the making of your shiny gadget?
Imagine a label, one that reads: “An actual, living, breathing human used their own hands to help make this product.” This is just what the (western) world needs, a label affixed to consumer goods. We need this urgent reminder because in those seconds when we decide to purchase another piece of life’s apparatus we are strikingly effective at suppressing any ethical doubt over its provenance.The first thing we do (with varying levels of awareness) is convince ourselves that – from the hottest bits of sleek hi-tech gadgetry to highly embellished fashion garments – these were made by very clever robot arms that can apply toxic chemicals to a touch screen or expertly sew a sequin or bead. But as today’s Observer report on Apple products lays bare, our consumer goods still arrive courtesy of the blood, sweat and tears of many human beings.

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