How Apple Can Solve Its China Problem

How Apple Can Solve Its China Problem -...

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How Apple Can Solve Its China Problem By  Mike Elgan  • 1:43 pm, January 28, 2012 Apple is on the brink of becoming the poster child for worker abuse.  Journalists and rights organizations are starting to  draw attention to the enormous contrast between Apple’s quarterly billions in profits, and the desperate plight of abused  workers in China. And the closer you look, the uglier this issue gets. And it threatens to damage Apple’s long-term prospects for continued growth and success. Here’s the problem, and also what Apple can do about it. The culture of Chinese manufacturing is rife with horrors, including child labor, unpaid overtime, slave-like living and  working conditions, punitive withholding of wages, unsafe handling of chemicals and equipment, rampant  environmental abuses and more. Employees who polish iPad cases sparkle in the sun like Twilight vampires, even after showering, because the  aluminum dust is so thoroughly embedded in their skin. In addition to the reality of manufacturing, there’s also the perception.  The New York Times  published a devastating  story Jan. 25 (“ In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad “). The story emphasized workers being killed by chemical explosions, child labor and general worker abuse. The whole point of the article was to contrast Apple’s spectacular financial success with the horrors of working  conditions suffered by makers of Apple products. The online comic The Joy of Tech illustrated some hilarious suggestions about  how Apple could spend its $100 billion  cash hoard , ending with the not-so-funny suggestion that Apple share the money with factory workers. A cultural meme is developing that Apple is awash in billions made by callously destroying the lives of Chinese youth.  Once established, it will stick to Apple like aluminum dust, and become impossible to shake off no matter what Apple  actually does. Inside the Culture of Chinese Manufacturing Chinese factory jobs aren’t careers for most employees. They’re temporary “sacrifice” jobs.  People in their early 20s leave their homes, and deliberately sacrifice two to 10 years or more of their youth to the cause  of saving money for the future. Many of them are undereducated country bumpkins or ethnic minorities with limited job  prospects outside factory work. Others are relatively well educated, but factory work offers the best option for job  security in a tough economy.
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