Why should we even be concerned about where and under what conditions our Apple iPads and iPhones and MacBooks are produced? Contrary to popular belief, Apple is not a big creator of jobs within the USA. While Apple has created a couple of thousand well-paying software development jobs that are located in this country, has it built assembly plants and a network of suppliers that provide jobs to Americans?
And what about the kind of manufacturing jobs that you can get with a high school or junior college degree, and some on-the-job training? The kind of job that the auto assembly plants and appliance manufacturing facilities used to provide in the tens of thousands?
Those tens of thousands, actually hundreds of thousands, of jobs have emigrated to China. And why has Apple outsourced these jobs to China? Two reasons: China allows the corporations within its borders to flagrantly disregard workers’ rights, their safety and their health. And the Chinese government turns a blind eye to companies that pollute the air and water. The Chinese rationale for doing this? If they tighten up their standards, corporations will take their jobs to even less law-abiding countries.
So, by saving on wages and benefits, as well as by being able to ignore pollution control standards, Apple’s production costs are lower, their profit margins higher and consumers in developed countries can buy their electronic toys for less.
Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, explains the benefits of manufacturing in China: if your iPad was manufactured in the US, it would cost 23% more. Of course, the cost that we US consumers pay for our iPhones does not include the social costs incurred by the Chinese workers who commit suicide or those whose health is ruined by the constant repetitive motions required in assembly lines. Or the nerve damage incurred by workers who clean off the mirror-like surface of the iPads using a nerve toxin, because it dries faster than the non-toxic cleaner.
The New York Times, in a more serious vein, publishes a lengthy expose of working conditions at the Foxconn facilities. And maybe they rhapsodize at bit too much on the advantages, not only of having all the suppliers clustered near the Foxconn facilities, but also of having all the workers living upstairs from the factory.
Chinese “netizens” respond on-line to the NYT article, after it was translated and published in a major Chinese newspaper.
In this interview with Real News Network, Bill Black, of the Law and Economics faculty at the University of Missouri and author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, provides interesting insights on how the willingness of “cheater” corporations and countries to ignore law and ethics, results in a race to the bottom. And, how the United States Government aids and abets this race.
So, when we listen to politicians who insist that the way to bring back jobs to the US is to get rid of regulatory agencies, environmental restrictions and trade unions, visualize Foxconn brought to the United States; your sons and daughters living eight to a room and rousted out of bed at midnight to speed delivery on a new model, your husband or sister jailed for twelve years for attempting to unionize workers.
Apple’s fourth quarter 2011 net profit was $6.62 billion.