Apple’s annual supplier audit, which is in its seventh year, has been released. According to the audit, underage workers were discovered in 11 factories, with 106 cases in total being investigated. However, one manufacturer in particular had excessive use of child labor and is getting the boot due. Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics, which is a subcontractor to a company Apple outsources to, was found to have violated the underage policy… 74 times.
The report indicates that the manufacturer, which makes motherboards, wasn’t accomplishing this on its own, as a local staffing firm was the one in charge of supplying them with children. The firm did this by helping families forge documents which verified their age, so all three parties (manufacturer, staffing firm, and parents) are to blame for use of child labor.
You might be wondering why Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics is the only company that got the boot. After all, 106 cases were found meaning 32 cases were at other companies. It probably has to do with the fact that a) use of child labor is a common practice in many parts of Asia (due to poverty) and Apple cannot kick out all of its suppliers or else Apple would go out of business and b) Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics had excessive use of child labor whereas some other companies may have had only one or two. Plus there is another reason.
You see when Apple discovers use of child labor by its suppliers, it requires the suppliers to
- Return the children back to their families;
- Finance the education of the children at any school (and presumably college) desired by the family; and
- Continue to pay the children what they would have earned if they were still working.
So if they boot all suppliers that use child labor, not only would they be out of suppliers but Apple would also be unable to enforce their policy. In other words, once you drop a supplier you have no power over them to force them to do all three of the things mentioned above.
The discover of child labor use is due in large part to Apple really cracking down on issues with its suppliers — the Apple report indicates that they’ve conducted 393 audits for 2013, which is a 72 percent increase from 2011. Aside from child labor, there are other issues Apple is trying to improve like better working conditions, overtime abuse, and bonded labor, which is a process that recruits foreign workers but makes them pay excessive amounts for recruitment fees. It’s probably going to take a lot more than 393 audits to clamp down on everything and then some, but hopefully it’ll only get better from here.
Kudos, Apple. As far as I know, you are the first major company to kick a supplier out for using child labor.