Apple is the first major tech company to drop a supplier for use of child labor


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.

[via Gizmodo]

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  • bob

    oh yeah
    minecraft talk

  • bob

    sup bro!
    Hey this child labour stuff is really messed up!
    It should be stopped!!

  • jayesstee

    I agree, well said. However it’s not just the USA!
    It applies to all of the major western countries

  • n.n


    Well said, indeed. I would just like to add to your second point, that the issue there is also principally economic, but due in large part to regulatory policy. We have the so-called “rare’ Earth elements in America, but it is less expensive fiscally and simplifies public relations to outsource (or shift) their recovery and processing.

    There is a prevailing principle in America, “out-of-sight and out-of-mind,” where people want an outcome without paying its costs. We have needs and desires for products and services, but are not willing to accept the consequences associated with their fulfillment.

  • Enrique

    @Ashraf: Well said Ashraf! I agree on all fronts.

  • Ashraf

    @Larry: I apologize in advance for being rude.

    That being said… grow up. Instead of throwing a tantrum “wah wah wah foreigners are taking American jobs, human rights this, human rights that”, research and find out the reasons why a) major American companies outsource their manufacturing and b) why child labor exists in the first place. There is no anti-American, anti-human-rights conspiracy going on. There are reasons for why this is happening, three of which I can tell you off the top of my head:

    1) It is cheaper. Yes, it is cheaper to manufacture overseas due to relax regulations, low labor costs, etc. Guess what? It is cheaper because that is what CONSUMERS demand. If consumers are willing to pay the premium for “Made in America”, companies have no issue providing it. (Ignore the fact that, as very many people have pointed out over and over, developed nations no longer have the skilled labor required for many of these manufacturing jobs.) Not very many consumers are.

    2) Supply chain. Very many raw materials needed for manufacturing, especially for high tech goods, are sourced out of Asia. In particular, China is the biggest producer of rare Earth metals. It is easier to manufacture closer to the source of raw materials than it is to ship it across the Pacific.

    3) I’m sure there are cases of abuse of forced child labor, but by and large children go to work in factories, etc. instead of going to school because of poverty. No child wants to wake up in the morning and plow the fields or assemble an iPhone. They are forced to due to the financial conditions of their family. If you actually think about it, while on one hand children do belong in school and that is the right thing to do, that is also the ‘western’ way of thinking. You know, the people who don’t have to send their children to work in order to put food on the table. For many families in developing nations, child labor is an important source of income. Cut that off and you might as well starve them.

    Now, of course, times are changing. As developing nations start to develop, labor costs increase, regulations tighten, geo-political issues rear their head, etc. So there are instances of where companies are bringing manufacturing back to their home countries, such as GE. Still, by and large what I mention above is true and will hold true for years to come.

    No conspiracy here. Its called simple economics (and politics, to an extent). I’m not saying it is right. I’m saying there are reasons for it.

  • Larry

    The ALMIGHTY $$ once again trumps human rights!!!

    “Apple cannot kick out all of its suppliers or else Apple would go out of business”

    Why would they go out of business? Are there no American workers that could do what these offshore companies are doing?

    And who follows up on Apple’s “requirements” with the children?

    Who monitors whether they are actually sent back home, educated and paid?

    It’s a nice “thought” and makes for good press, but in reality… is it really happening?

    How do they know??

    As long as American companies send jobs overseas to be done “on the cheap” by child, indentured and/or slave labor, they are nothing more than cowardly hipocrites who say one thing but do another.

    J.C. Penny, Sears, Apple… all cut from the same cloth. Talk a good game, but turn a blind eye when it comes to child labor as long as the work is done CHEAPLY and increases their profits.. no matter the human toll!!!