Facing a storm of criticism over the working conditions in factories building iPods, iPhones and iPads, Apple today for the first time released the names of 156 global suppliers along with a report showing mixed success obtaining fair working conditions. One bright spot: fewer children are working on the much-prized Apple devices.
In the 2012 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, Apple cranked up the number of supplier audits to 229, up dramatically from 2010. In 2011, Apple reported on its actions to stem suicides at Foxconn, a China-based factory beset by employees killing themselves. This year, however, the focus was on child workers. According to the report, Apple’s audits found six cases of underage workers at five sites.
That’s a far cry from the 49 instances of child labor at 9 facilities. In one factory alone, the Cupertino, Calif. company found 42 child workers. “In 2011, we broadened our age verification program and saw dramatic improvements in hiring practices by our suppliers,” Apple announced. No underage workers were found at final assembly suppliers, the company claims.
Although fewer children are assembling Apple devices, workers continue to be on the job longer than desired. Indeed, only 38 percent of Apple suppliers limited workers to a 60-hour week.
Many environmentalists in China have been angry at Apple over incidents of pollution often linked to the iPhone maker’s suppliers. Apple had balked at calls to provide the names of its suppliers who could have then been sued by the groups. In late 2011, Apple made some concessions, meeting with a couple of the environmental activists.
The report comes just a day after Microsoft and Foxconn settled worker pay issues that had 300 factory workers building Xbox 360 consoles threatening suicide as a bargaining chip. The workers, promised severance pay rather than raises, had threatened to jump from the factory roof.
Today’s report, including details of the audits conducted, can be downloaded from Apple.