Apple Inc. announced on Friday that its internal audits had found more than 106 underage employees at 11 different locations in its supply chain; it found another 70 “historical” cases of child labor. The company also said that it had terminated contracts with a Chinese supplier, Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhuou Electronics, which employed 74 workers under age 16. Auditors found eight facilities with “bonded labor” –cases in which workers were compelled to labor to pay off excessive recruiting fees.
The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization with a long history of working to reduce child labor in the U.S. and abroad, applauds the termination of supplier contracts that rely on the work of child labor. “After much criticism, it appears that Apple has finally stepped up auditing of its supply chain. We urge the company to continue on that path as aggressively as possible. With 1.5 million workers in 14 countries, the 106 children found working may be the tip of the iceberg,” noted NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg who is a co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition, which represents 28 organizations, trying to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.
“Children should not be working in electronics manufacturing--with its accompanying dangers. They should be in school and allowed to realize their full potential,” added Greenberg. “Given Apple’s enormous profitability, it’s essential the company does everything in its power to stamp out child labor. Other electronics companies should take warning, and conduct rigorous audits of their supply chains.”
Apple suppliers in China, including the manufacturing behemoth FoxConn, have been criticized for poor working conditions and safety standards. Conditions were so bad, FoxConn felt compelled to install suicide nets to stop employees from plunging to their deaths off company rooftops. According to analyst Steven Millwood of TechAsia, Apple’s new “supplier responsibility” report “details the same grim scene” for workers depicted in prior reports.