Apple Exploiting Cheap Chinese Labour Cultural Studies Essay

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According to Saskia Sassen thirty fifth page Globalisation: Globalisation is a process which involves countries trading amongst each other and therefore become interdependent on a world basis rather than a regional or national basis. It refers to relations of economics, politics, socialism and culture between different countries of the world. It also has a large impact on the power of states. The smaller the country is, the less power they have. It is a way to be global, worldwide, international, intercontinental.

According to (Philip Wolny, sixth page)Colonialism: Colonialism is the extension of a nation's power over territory beyond its borders by the establishment of either settler colonies or administrative dependencies in which indigenous populations are directly ruled or displaced. Colonising nations generally dominate the resources, labour, and markets of the colonial territory, and may also impose socio-cultural, religious and linguistic structures on the conquered population.

Neo-colonialism: is a term used to refer to the idea that nations that have acted as colonisers in the past may exercise power and control over former colonies. It is the political control by an outside power of a country that is in theory powerful, independent and dominant through its economy. It also refers to the policy of a strong nation which seeks political and economic hegemony over the nation without reducing the legal status of a colony.

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Post-colonialism: Post-colonialism (aka post-colonial theory) refers to different theories in philosophy and literature that struggle with the legacy of colonial rule. In this sense, postcolonial literature may be considered a branch of Postmodern literature which is concerned with political and cultural independence of people.

The topic i will be covering in my essay is to find out if Apple is exploiting cheap Labour in China and at other Foxconn factories that work for it. I will look at working conditions of the workers and their standards of living. I will compare the production cost of an ipad to its selling price. Is Apple an inhuman evil empire of capitalism due to profit urges? Is Apple brainwashing their workers and consumers or is it them who have been brainwashed by the media to attain the position of self-actualisation.

I will make use of the qualitative research methodology for my thesis. As i want to know how this situation has caused people to react. How putting the workers of Foxconn in this situation, has left them in a depressing state. Why do people buy apple products? Why did the Chinese public queue up to work for Foxconn, why haven't any of them left the company already, and what drives workers to commit suicide? Why has apple opted to employ companies overseas when they have more than enough people in their own country to do the work. Why does apple continue to employ new people if they have made millions? Why do they pay workers so little when their products are rather expensive in comparison to its rivals. I will be looking at colonialism to demonstrate how apple's manipulation over the Chinese workers relates.

Apple as a company started thirty six years ago "http://allaboutstevejobs.com/bio/shortbio.php" states that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniack created the company Apple on 1 April 1976, for the purpose of creating a personal computer. It was wozniacks influence from a group of hobbyist called the Homebrew Computer Club, that gave him the idea of creating personal computers so that other hobbyists' could write their own code with ease instead of setting up much larger computers.

According to (Author Adeel Ahmed Khan) "http://www.scribd.com/doc/67899754/13/APPLE%E2%80%99s-VISION-and-MISSION" apple's vision and mission is as follows "Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife,iWork, and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods andiTunes online store. Apple reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone andApp Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices. Another mission statement that is attached with Apple as its mission statement is:"Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and internet offerings."

 

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Vision Statement:

"Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them."

Apple comes across as bragging and boasting about their products, i believe that everyone who knows about apple knows that they are amongst the top competitors in the world when it comes to technology and personal devices. However, to state that they are the very best is vain and arrogant, and this isn't my idea of a great company. I wouldn't want to be associated with a company that deems itself to be the best creators and inventors if they aren't. There is too much competition to clearly state which is best and there are a number of factors to consider if they want to make that comment. In terms of sales Microsoft has sold more computers than mac. (Nina Krimly) "http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/mac-vs-pc-myth-busting-consumer-guide/" states that "Statistics show that Microsoft Windows has approximately 91% of the market share, while the Apple Mac OS has around 5% of the market share. The other 4% is owned by other operating systems such as Linux."

Globalisation relates to my subject matter because it shows how an empire like apple came to be and the reason for something like this being able to exist in our time. According to (David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton Global Transformations, March 1999, Second Page) "In sum, globalization can be thought of as the widening, intensifying, speeding up, and growing impact of world-wide interconnectedness." This proves how Apple has managed to extend its target market globally because of its interconnectedness with the world. Media has helped all products and services become world known. What drives globalisation is technology, by having the ability to communicate with others across the world is what has allowed all things to become world know.

Colonisation first began on the 6th April 1652 under the direct order of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) also known as the Dutch East India Company. Jan Van Riebeek planted the Dutch flag on the shores of Table Bay and a steady process of colonisation began, according to Alan Mountain (2003:26-27). Saladin F States that colonialism is "Colonialism is the extension of a nation's sovereignty over territory beyond its borders by the establishment of either settler colonies or administrative dependencies in which indigenous populations are directly ruled or displaced. Colonising nations generally dominate the resources, labour, and markets of the colonial territory, and may also impose socio-cultural, religious and linguistic structures on the conquered population". History repeats itself and it's quite easy to see how Apple is colonising the Chinese workers it's just not in such a direct manner. They haven't physically taken over land but they have used a trading method like the early Dutch used with the Indian trade merchants. Apple's trade isn't fair, and that's where exploitation comes in.

Exploitation is "Exploitation refers to a situation in which one part of a society (because of its ownership of key productive resources such as land, tools or administrative knowledge), lives off the goods and services produced by another part without providing an equal transfer of goods and services." according to (Allen Myers) Apple is then considered to be exploiting the Chinese workers by giving them minimal pay after expecting them to work for longer than the standard amount of hours a labourer is expected to work in any industry. According to Darryl Thomas the workers are often under aged and are working thirteen hour shifts with one days rest. He goes on to say how some people work for sixteen hours straight and their legs swell to the point where they can no longer walk. "The Apple contractors' employees were forced to put in 80 to 100 hours of overtime (on top of the 174 hours of regular work) each month, according to the petition on the group's website, SumOfUs.org." according to David Zielenziger. This was because the iphone was produced with a plastic screen and Steve Jobs sent them all back and demanded that they be made from glass instead. If he had given them enough time to implement the changes then that wouldn't have been a form of exploitation but making people work that hard is not fair.

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Apple may have started with good intentions of creating the world's best computer for the average joe. Their ideas have always been concerned with facilitating the lives of the person using their device but over the past two years people have been more concerned with the lives of the assembly line workers that Apple employs. There have been 9 suicides and 11 jumps at different factories that work for apple states (exploited Labour Video).

Globalistation has caused this dilemma because if people never knew about something before it was going to happen then the need for something wouldn't be there. Globalisation allows for that to happen. When Apple announces that they are going to be launching a new product, Apple fans will want the new product as soon as possible and Apple competitors will be on the move to create something similar for cheaper. If Apple then wants to keep its fans and possibly make more then they will have to keep them happy and to d that they need to give them what they want as soon as possible. This then directly effects the assembly line workers that work for a company like Foxconn. They are pushed to perform their jobs faster and to work for longer hours so that Apple's product can be released as soon as possible. The World has its pros and cons about globalisation not all of it is bad, the fact that we can talk with our relatives that are overseas but we can also learn about other cultures or anything we'd like really. However with every system there are flaws and negative and with globalisation one of the negatives is the media and within that lies advertising. By telling people what is good and what should be desired, the media has created a egocentric and materialistic world. People hear about something new and they want it instantly. People have less patients and their desire for newness has escalated.

For Apple this means that they needed to be exploiting cheap labour to keep up with the demands of the western world according to. However, it's not only Apple that is doing so (Charles Duhigg, 21 January 2012, eighth page) states that many other large names in the global market are exploiting cheap labour. According to (Charles Duhigg, 21 January 2012, eighth page) one of Apple's executives states that for them to move their production and assembly companies on to home grounds wouldn't be viable because America can't open a company like Foxconn that is flexible and fast working.

Colonisation has an effect on this issue as well. Instead of Apple running their business solely in their own country, majority of it is made up of smaller companies that include Asia Eastern Europe, Mexico and Brazil according to " (CHARLES DUHIGG and KEITH BRADSHER,21 January 2012, seventh page).Early forms of colonisation included people physically living and occupying space in another country, they would then gain control over the local people and impose their own rules,regulations and sometimes their own cultural values upon them. With apple the part of colonisation that is going on it the part where Apple has control over the people in other countries. When Apple tells Foxconn that something needs to be done, they will do it and it's because of the reward that both companies reap. When colonisation first stared the people being colonised wouldn't gain anything, the colonisers would simply come in and take whatever they felt like they wanted. With Apple they benefit for spending more of their income on paying wages and for Foxconn they know that they will have a steady income because Apple is such an enormous company.

HOW THEY EXPLOIT THE WORKERS & SAFETY ISSUES

Image reference:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/business/apple-america-and-a-squeezed-middle-class.html?pagewanted=all

How Apple exploits the Chinese workers is by paying them less than what they would have to normally pay any other worker and by making them work longer hours than what is normal. Above we see how thousands of works crowed at the Foxconn desk to submit there c.v's and hopefully get a job. According to (Darryl Thomas, video) The Chinese workers at Foxconn, they get paid one hundred and twenty five pounds per month and work fourty eight hours per week, sometimes even more. When CEO at the time Steve Jobs was about to launch the iphone 4. A month before the launch date he had a meeting with his executives where he told them that he'd like to change the screen and replace it with a new glass one (Charles Duhigg, 21 January 2012, fifth paragraph). The workers were woken from their beds in the early hours of the morning and given a biscuit and tea and were put to work on the new improvement that Jobs had demanded within thirty minutes. Within ninety six hours the Foxconn company was producing over ten thousand iphones per day. Here is quote taken from a former apple executive that denies the possibility of the midnight shift " The company disputed some details of the former Apple executive's account, and wrote that a midnight shift, such as the one described, was impossible "because we have strict regulations regarding the working hours of our employees based on their designated shifts, and every employee has computerized timecards that would bar them from working at any facility at a time outside of their approved shift." The company said that all shifts began at either 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., and that employees receive at least 12 hours' notice of any schedule changes.

Foxconn employees, in interviews, have challenged those assertions." (Charles Duhigg, 21 January 2012, eighth page) "We've known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they're still going on," said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. "Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn't have another choice." From this quote it's easy to see how manipulative Apple can be. Apple could replace Foxconn if it wanted to or it could deny it from jobs so this is how Apple manipulate Foxconn and in turn how Foxconn manipulates it's employees. "Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: "Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow."" states (CHARLES DUHIGG and DAVID BARBOZA, 25 January 2012, page). If a company threatens its employees then it simply shouldn't be a company at all, a business in my opinion should be about providing a service, that should be the top priority of every business. If the business can do this successfully then they will be rewarded by the money that comes from that. Foxconn is more worried about how much money it's making than anything else and that's where they are going wrong.

(CHARLES DUHIGG and DAVID BARBOZA, 25 January 2012, page) quoted one of Apple's executives to find out some troubling information "If you see the same pattern of problems, year after year, that means the company's ignoring the issue rather than solving it," said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. "Noncompliance is tolerated, as long as the suppliers promise to try harder next time. If we meant business, core violations would disappear." If people know about this information then why do they still purchase Apple products? I'm sure that Apple has lost quite a lot of its fans because of the negligence they have about their workers. I could imagin that most people wouldn't want to know that their phone was made by an underaged person getting paid close to nothing. The people that do continue to buy Apple products either don't care about where their phone comes from because they care more about their own wants or they simply do not know about this situation and believe that Apple is making their products without exploiting any one. The explosion at Chengdu is one of the most well know incidents that happened to workers that worked for Foxconn. After this had happened Apple had their suppliers inspected for safety hazards and any dangerous violations that the company was committing. "It is gross negligence, after an explosion occurs, not to realize that every factory should be inspected," said Nicholas Ashford, the occupational safety expert, who is now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "If it were terribly difficult to deal with aluminum dust, I would understand. But do you know how easy dust is to control? It's called ventilation. We solved this problem over a century ago." stated by (CHARLES DUHIGG and DAVID BARBOZA, 25 January 2012, page). I couldn't agree more it's only common sense that Apple should have realised that the same problem could happen at any one of their factories. They didn't and another explosion occurred, one can see that Apple really is not interested in the safety of its employees. According to (Jimima Kiss, 13 September 2012, first page) " A Foxconn factory in Shenzhen. The workers are only allowed to sit down if they perch on the edge of the seat to keep them 'nimble'. Photograph: Imaginechina/Corbis "

I think it's sad that the company will let them sit but not even comfortably. Then what is the point, if one must sit but still feel uncomfortable.

PODUCTION COST OF THE IPHONE 4

In order to prove anything though i would need to find out the cost of making an iproduct and then find out how much Apple is paying each worker at an hourly or monthly rate.

So i have found out the price to produce the iPhone 4. According to (Rue Liu, Feb 23rd 2012, first paragraph) " each iPhone costs about $30" " According to the ABC report, each iPhone takes 24 hours to produce, including 6 to 8 hours for component burn-in and software testing. The show also revealed that each worker on the production line makes roughly $1.78 per hour."

According to (Horace Dediu, 22 February 2012, Eighth paragraph )". Assuming 10 hours of working time per day means 600 units per hour or 10 per minute. This seems extremely high as the worker would have to handle the product for only six seconds. " UPDATE: In a statement Foxconn clarified wages as "We have over 75 percent of the employees in the category of earning at least 2,200 RMB ($349/month) basic compensation standard. That means they are earning 13.75 RMB ($2.18) per hour"." He also states that " An iPhone generates approximately $650 in revenue for Apple " (first paragraph). From the following information one can see exactly how Apple is exploiting the Chinese workers. They generate more than enough money to increase wages and working conditions for their employees but the fact that they don't is what make this a situation of exploitation. According to (anon{payscale website}, 6 November 2012, first paragraph) the hourly rate for an assembly line worker in America is "

with this information it makes it clear that the workers are underpaid and are working longer shifts than your usual time for any job. Here it is evident that Apple is seeking companies in China so that they can pay lower wages so that they make large amounts of profit when selling their products. (Charles Duhigg, 21 January 2012, page 6) States that the Foxconn factory employes 230000 people that work six days a week for twelve hour long shifts and earn less than $17 a day. These people also live on company barracks. Even though the cost of shipping is quite expensive the money they make on profit is worth manufacturing the products overseas. I believe this to be the major reason why Apple and other companies alike won't consider manufacturing their products in their own country. If we had to calculate how much apple would lose per phone because of paying the industry standard on wages we'd see that they wouldn't be making so much profit. According to (Eduardo Porter,6 March 2012, First Page) the image below shows how the concerned American public are reacting to the situation. No one wants a phone that has been made on the back of slaves. Porter commented that Apple had a "Nike moment" by this he is referring to the past when people first found out that their Nike shoes were being stitched by young slaves in Bangladesh.

HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN IN CHINA

Another question that i'd like to answer is how long has Apple been exploiting the Chinese? .(Charles Duhigg, 21 January 2012, paragraph) states that " In its early days, Apple usually didn't look beyond its own backyard for manufacturing solutions. A few years after Apple began building the Macintosh in 1983, for instance, Mr. Jobs bragged that it was "a machine that is made in America." In 1990, while Mr. Jobs was running NeXT, which was eventually bought by Apple, the executive told a reporter that "I'm as proud of the factory as I am of the computer." As late as 2002, top Apple executives occasionally drove two hours northeast of their headquarters to visit the company's iMac plant in Elk Grove, Calif.

But by 2004, Apple had largely turned to foreign manufacturing. Guiding that decision was Apple's operations expert, Timothy D. Cook, who replaced Mr. Jobs as chief executive last August, six weeks before Mr. Jobs's death. Most other American electronics companies had already gone abroad, and Apple, which at the time was struggling, felt it had to grasp every advantage." So we can see that as from the year 2004 Apple has been using cheap labour to produce their products. So it's safe to assume that they have grown into the worlds' largest company within eight years because of the fact that they make large amounts of profit. It boils down to basic business principals in order to gain the most profit one needs to have a minimal input and a maximum output and that is exactly what they've done. No doubt that it was a really good business decision in terms of the profit gains but the well being of others wasn't considered. If Apple managed to climb to the top of the scale in such a short amount of time what stops them from staying where they are, what stops them from continuing to exploit Chinese labour.

According to (Charles Duhigg, 21 January 2012, page 6) " For Mr. Cook, the focus on Asia "came down to two things," said one former high-ranking Apple executive. Factories in Asia "can scale up and down faster" and "Asian supply chains have surpassed what's in the U.S." The result is that "we can't compete at this point," the executive said." So not only is it that the labour is cheap but the fact that they can fire and hire people as they need them. I think that it's horrible to know that there are people working for them, who aren't even sure for how long they'll have an income. These people are amongst the lower and middle working class and having a steady income means survival. when you find yourself at any job you know that the only reasons you could be fired is because of any mistake on your behalf or if the company closes down. However, according to the above statement Foxconn can fire an employee because they no longer require their services.

( Charles Duhigg, 21 January 2012, paragraph ) " states that not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today few are, almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas." He quoted Betsey Stevenson the chief economist at the Labour Department when she said "Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn't the best financial choice, That's disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity." I think that it's sad how people care about money more than they do about their fellow person, but once again this because of the media and how it tells us that having the most amount of money will make you happy. In the same article he quote the words of a current executive to say "We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries, We don't have an obligation to solve America's problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible." This to me shows the exact attitude that Apple as a company has towards the rest of the world, they are not interested in who suffers or who does what. There only interest is to make the products they design and sell them as fast as possible for as much as possible so that they can make large amounts of profit. Going back to what Betsey Stevenson said i think that people no longer care about others because of how our culture has changed and how a lot of people nowadays aren't religious or aren't religious enough to have that set rule that others should come first. If one had to be Christian one would know that materialistic things aren't what matter but rather the well being of others. All religions have a basic set of rules and no matter what religion it is they are all basically the same, so if you no longer follow these rules then there is no worry about your fellow person.

According to (Charles Duhigg, 21 January 2012, second paragraph) one of Apple's ex executives states that Apple can't run a company like Foxconn in America because it lacks the amount of workers with the right skills and requirement to do the job. To me this sounds like a poor excuse, companies who can't find enough people with the right qualifications to work for them, often train people before hiring them. (Charles Duhigg, 21 January 2012, eight page) Goes on to explain exactly why Apple won't consider moving its manufacturing plant to America " Another critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple's executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company's analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States.

In China, it took 15 days." I'm sure a company like Apple with the amount of money they make could have started a smaller company like Foxconn in America and over time have trained enough people so that they company eventually becomes larger than Foxconn and Apple could then make the move to America.

To conclude everything that i have read concludes that Apple is using cheap Chinese labour to get there products out and sold quicker cheaper and more efficient, than they could if they had to have their manufacturing factories on American soil. Foxconn is their main manufacturing company and they have large issues with health and safety of their employees. They also underpay their employees and over work them. This is why many don't work at Foxconn for very long. Apple had made promises to improve the situation at their suppliers but reports have show that not much has been done which only leave me with one conclusion and that is to say that Apple is still exploiting the Chinese for their cheap labour. People have died at these factories and due to poor management and negligence an behalf of Foxconn and Apple. Apple keeps releasing new products with new features every year and their price increases every year too, however we can't say the same for the employees as their wages are still very low in comparison with other labourers all over the world. I really do hope that enough people can see what is going on with Apple and its suppliers so that they can push apple to change the situation because if we don't do something to stop this, then i fear that Apple and Foxconn will never stop exploiting people to get what they want.