What do you do when you’re sitting on a mountain of cash and have a labor condition crisis that has resulted in terrible PR? Give your employees a couple more dollars and hope that satisfies everyone, duh! Apple’s manufacturing partner, Foxconn Technology Group released a statement today that they have raised the wages of their Chinese workers by 16-25% this month. This is the second time wages have risen for Foxconn employees, but the first pay raise still didn’t resolve criticisms over Apple’s labor conditions.
The new increase in pay amounts to about 1800 yuan per month for the average junior level worker at Foxconn’s manufacturing plant (the place where baby iPads and iPhones are born). Considering that the average monthly salary hovered around 900 yuan three years ago, it’s fair to say Foxconn and Apple have been making some effort to improve conditions. Instead of being grossly underpaid slave laborers, Foxconn employees are now almost decently paid indentured servants.
Foxconn released a statement this morning stating:
“As a top manufacturing company in China, the basic salary of junior workers in all of Foxconn’s China factories is already far higher than the minimum wage set by all local governments. We will provide more training opportunities and learning time, and will continuously enhance technology, efficiency and salary, so as to set a good example for the Chinese manufacturing industry.”
Yes, a pay raise is a very helpful bonus for Foxconn workers – most of whom are young people looking to save up as much money as possible to start a better life outside of the factory. But the reason why Foxconn and other Chinese factory conditions are so deplorable has more to do with the work environment and how hard employees are pushed. Twelve hour shifts, cramped living conditions, strict performance metrics, lack of opportunity for advancement, and many other things factor into the unhappiness of workers, not just how little they make.
No sum of money can compensate for physical and emotional mistreatment. Giving employees more money is a step in the right direction, but more will need to be done to increase the quality of life of these human beings. Hopefully Apple and other electronic companies like HP, Google, Dell, and Microsoft will keep making larger efforts to improve labor conditions.