Apple, Foxconn and Chinese Workers – It’s All About Context

The New York Time recently ran a fascinating article on why Apple builds all its stuff in China. This has brought renewed calls about low wages, child labour, working conditions, employee suicides, buy American, boycott Apple, etc.

My question is, why are they focusing on Apple and Foxconn? Apple is not the only company building their stuff in China and Apple is not Foxconn’s only customer. Last time I checked, pretty much every American tech firm builds their stuff in China. Apple is the target simply because they’re the most successful.

Just how bad are working conditions at Foxconn? The following graphic visualisation by Paul Arnett (based on numbers from should put things in context.

Disclosure – I am an Apple shareholder. And no, I don’t need Apple to pay out a dividend.

22 thoughts on “Apple, Foxconn and Chinese Workers – It’s All About Context”

  1. I watched Shark Tank over the weekend, and a valid point was made in reference to all this. Apple still employs 49K employees in the US! And those jobs would be impossible if the manufacturing was taking place in the US. It’s time to move on from “manufacturing” jobs to “tech” jobs. Let these developing countries use their skills to help the US develop more high-tech and more sophisticated jobs. It’s up to us to adapt to these jobs.

    And at the end of the day, it is us that vote with our wallet and decide: “I want this cheaper” so the manufacturer needs to find a cheaper way of building it… we can’t complain when they go and do this.

    1. mikeyur says:

      @Oscar Gonzalez @John Chow

      I agree. As an example, the iPhone & iPad alone have created thousands of jobs outside of Apple, not to mention the hundreds/thousands inside the company. Think about all the iOS developers that were employed to build new applications over the last few years. Or the entrepreneurial developers who have built solid businesses off of the platform, employing themselves and other devs/designers/support people/accountants/etc.

      The job creation from these technologies is far greater than the ‘lost’ manufacturing jobs.

      1. @mikeyur Yup, but many people are just nearsighted and can’t see the long term or bigger picture. But more importantly, I think they are just happy with the status quo and don’t want to evolve with the times.

  2. JasonGeiger says:

    …so when will “robots” be cheaper than people and we won’t need China at all.

    1. John Chow says:

      @JasonGeiger Foxconn has already started the process of replacing workers with robots.

      1. Tu Michael says:

        @John Chow @JasonGeiger in Vietnam, there’s a robot company named Tosy too. do u think robot is a trend in the future?

        1. zeus says:

          @Tu Michael @John Chow @JasonGeiger

          They use robots to build cars so why not use them for everything else? I actually use to program robots.

        2. hamids9898 says:

          @Tu Michael @John Chow @JasonGeiger tu michael tosy too i had heared first time

      2. hamids9898 says:

        @John Chow @JasonGeiger hmm

        1. Kenny Boger says:

          More People will become unemployed, however the replacement human workforce with robots will make our life more comfortable

  3. john they are focusing on Apple obviously because they are so well known. Sure there are electronics companies right here in Chicago that make their stuff in China but do think you’ll hear anyone mention them. Hell no. They’re too small and nobody cares. But when you can pick on Apple, hell then you have a story!

  4. hamids9898 says:

    wow john nice post

  5. fas says:

    Nice post, Apple fan – John?

  6. devinelines says:

    John, thanks for the Infographic perspective on Foxconn. The NY Times is just focusing on Apple, and by extension Foxconn, to stir up more anti-corporate Occupy-style envy. (Not that that will do anything to create jobs here or improve working conditions in China.) If they really wanted to create more U.S. manufacturing jobs, the NY Times and the government would stop hassling companies like Boeing and Gibson Guitars, and approve the Keystone pipeline. But then, that would probably offend the Occupiers, too, who complain about the lack of jobs while hating corporations. Go figure.

    1. @devinelines Totally agree Mitch. Lets just let business run and innovate so that we can continue to dominate the world’s economy… otherwise someone else is going to eat our lunch.

  7. at apls452 on twitter says:

    As a shareholder, I’m outraged Apple/Foxconn is paying 6K a year when the average is only $4500. I think Laborers should get an IMMEDIATE 25% pay cut. And what’s this 8 to a room luxury bullshit? 10 to a room is do-able. These workers have nowhere to go. If they don’t like it, there are plenty more who’d love this country club life. $144 MILLION A DAY PROFITS IS a record we can break ! C’mon Cook — don’t be a wuss. There’s no union, so go for it, big guy !

  8. The law of large numbers is going to bring Apple stock down soon. I suggest you trim some of your holdings going into the future. Apple is now the number one company in terms of market cap surpassing Exxon. Do you think oil or IPADs have greater value?

    There’s no doubt that Apple is an amazing company doing an awesome job with innovation, but sooner or later, the stock will come down regardless of whether it is deemed cheap. Maximize the charts and look at RSI and you will see why it will come down when the market takes a breather.

    Buy more at lower levels if you love Apple and good luck to all of the Apple workers. They’re building amazing products.

  9. That’s funny. 🙂

  10. IMAC says:

    I liked this post.Most of all because is John Chow’s point of view of this problem. A chinese judging china problems.I found it really interesting. Because its being said many bad stuff about Apple factores in there and the real truth is that there are many other brands there with exactly the same problems.As you said, John, its a China social problem, not an Apple’s one.

  11. hatfinch says:

    “Do you think oil or iPads have greater value?”

    It’s not oil versus iPads, it’s energy versus personal computing. Apple are leading the way in personal computing whereas Exxon haven’t wised up to peak oil yet. The market is right about this one.

  12. susana says:

    WHATTTTT? I don’t understand, this article TRY TO JUSTIFY A DEATH ¿?… this is unbelieveable!!! it’s not about context, it about HUMAN LIVES!!!… what kind of person (person?) is the writter?

  13. hatfinch says:

    I take it you don’t use vehicular transport? What’s that, you DO? What’s the MATTER with you? Don’t you realise that cars, buses, trains, planes etc. KILL PEOPLE? You are UNBELIEVABLE! Can’t you see this is about HUMAN LIVES? What kind of a person ARE YOU?!?!

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