If you’ve been paying any attention to the Presidential Primaries lately, you’ll know that the number of iPhones China makes is a big issue this year. Why are we sending so many “great” jobs to China to build America’s most iconic tech product when unemployment is such a big problem?
Well, Foxconn may employ tens of thousands of Chinese laborers to build the iPhone, but the vast majority of the labor costs associated with making an iPhone is spent right here in the States. In fact, only $10 per iPhone goes to paying workers abroad.
According to Forbes:
A report written by three U.S. professors showed that only about “$10 or less in direct labor wages goes into an iPhone or iPad is paid to Chinese workers.” The report points out that while Apple products — including components — are manufactured in China, the primary benefits go to the U.S. economy because Apple continues to keep most of its product design, software development, product management, marketing and other high-wage functions in the U.S., not China. China’s role is more of an assembler.
In other words, the only part of making an iPhone that is done abroad is the grunt work of actually screwing it all together. All of the high-paying, educated jobs involved in designing, engineering, marketing and selling the thing stay right here in the good old U.S.A. Apple’s not outsourcing good jobs to China: they are outsourcing undesirable, dangerous and menial jobs to China. Apple employs tons of people who “make” the iPhone what it is, from Tim Cook as CEO to the guy who puts together the latest ads, from Jonny Ive to your local smiling Apple Store Genius. The only jobs they are sending abroad are the ones most people living in a a modern, first-world nation don’t really want. Most of the iPhone remains an American product, through and through.
Author’s Note: To clear up some confusion about my views on Foxconn and Apple as expressed in the comments, I have made some small edits to the post. I would also like to say that I am not blind to Foxconn’s abuses of worker rights (in fact, I have reported on them both extensively and critically) and strongly believe Apple is not doing enough to protect their factory line employees. In addition, I do not think there is anything low or undignified about working a factory line, either at home or abroad, but I do believe that the American economy is in the process of transitioning away from relying on such jobs, and that such a transition is ultimately that is a good thing. I also think that even though the iPhone wasn’t assembled in America, it’s still very much an American product, through and through. I’m sorry if there’s been any misunderstanding.