From Silicon Valley To Shenzhen [Exclusive Book Excerpt]

A view of Shenzhen, CC-licensed on Wikimedia by Mauchai.
A view of Shenzhen, CC-licensed on Wikimedia by Mauchai.

Mike Daisey’s NPR monologue may have misrepresented his experience at Foxconn in China, but his main findings about working conditions there ring true.

Underage workers, health hazards and debilitating overtime are findings echoed by sociologist Dr. Boy Lüthje, who has spent the last decade researching labor conditions at China’s contract manufacturers where U.S. tech giants including Apple, Dell and HP make the electronic devices that populate our homes.

(You can read Cult of Mac’s exclusive interview with him here.)

Along with a team of researchers, he’s the author of a forthcoming academic work titled From Silicon Valley to Shenzen. The data here, Lüthje notes, is from late 2009 (before the wave of suicides hit Foxconn) but the general conditions remain largely unaltered. When it hits shelves, the book will include updated comments on Foxconn and Apple, he says.

Publisher Rowman & Littlefield granted Cult of Mac permission to publish an excerpt from Chapter 4, which similarities between electronics assembly plants in Mexico, China and Eastern Europe.

Here’s What Working Conditions At Chinese Electronics Plants Are Really Like [Exclusive Interview]

Adapted from CC-licensed photo by Mrbill on Flicker.
Adapted from CC-licensed photo by Mrbill on Flicker.

If you own an iPhone, laptop, Kindle, Android device, electric toothbrush, baby monitor or GPS navigator, it was probably put together by a worker in a Chinese factory.

Although Apple is currently juggling the PR hot-potato over working conditions at Foxconn plants in China, a situation made more murky by the factual takedown of Mike Daisey’s monologue, dozens of other global companies make their must-have electronics there.

For a wider perspective, Cult of Mac tracked down one of the world’s leading experts on modern labor in Asia.

Dr. Boy Lüthje is a sociologist at the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research and currently a visiting scholar at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii who has spent a decade visiting factories to study working conditions at electronics manufacturers in Asia, including Foxconn.