Life on the Production Line
Somewhere far far away in a magical place where your iPhone is magically formed, ready for delivery to the Apple Store and for you to purchase. If only it was that easy. It is in the country of Taiwan where is located the headquarters of Foxconn. The company responsible for the assembly of the so popular iPhone. Its official name Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd manages a number of factories in countries around the world including Taiwan itself, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines and Czech Republic however the most significant country is China. A huge percentage of iPhones and iPods are assembled in Shenzen, China.
When it comes to electronics, manufacture and Foxconn, iPhones are just the beginning. Foxconn reaches out to the manufacturing needs of other big brand companies such as HP, Dell, Nintendo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony and Samsung. With electronic good and technological advancement demand is something you can expect. Once a company with a good reputation design a product that can captivate the potential buyers, they can count on sale. However with great demand comes great pressure to deliver. The goods needs to be produced in the masses to cater to those lining up at the retail outlets eagerly awaiting the moment their new gadget is in their hands ready to be figured out and explored. In first world countries such as the United States of America or Australia labour costs are very high. Workers expect to be paid well and have to right to be paid penalty rates if working very long hours. Work conditions are usually rather casual compared to manufacture centres such as China which is why manufacture in a 1st world country is a poor investment.
Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple said that iPhone jobs won’t be coming back to America “not because of cheap labour, but because Asian factories produce fast, really FAST, and at a much LARGER scale and FLEXIBILITY.” Now with that said many people will argue at why the iPhones are then so expensive? It is because of profit and these companies know people are willing to dig deep to be “up to date” with the latest trends. There is a point behind fast labour. Paying little for labour means bigger profits however is the production is slow profit is lost because of delays. For companies like Apple it is a “win win” situation as they want to have everything on the table for a little profit loss possible within deadlines.
Now after discussing the workplaces, it’s now time to look into the workers that actually assemble your iPhone. There are thousands of them; in fact hundreds of thousands of poor people working tireless hours in poor work conditions to be able to earn those few precious dollars and gain that bit of experience in a work environment. Many people protest saying that these workers are forced to work and have no choice or freedom, however that is not the case. These workers want the jobs because to earn those few dollars a day is better than living without any income. They see the job as an opportunity to broaden their understanding of the working life and to develop life skills.
In a Global Issues Blog on TED.com Kate Torgovnick explains that more than 150 million workers (1/3 of these people women) leave their villages to work in factories, hotels and construction sites. Leslie T. Chang, the author of the book Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China spent 2 years in Dongguan (an industrial city found in China’s Pearl River Delta) interviewing the assembly line workers to find their views and perspective of their experience in such a workplace.
Leslie Chang ties it all together by saying,
“It is globalization — this chain that begins in the Chinese farming village and ends with iPhones in our pockets and Nikes on our feet — that has changed the way these millions of people work, marry, live and think. … When you talk to workers, they don’t say, ‘I want better hot water in the showers, I want a nicer room, I want a TV set.’ It would be nice to have those things, but that’s not why they’re in the city. From their perspective, where they’re coming from is much worse and where they’re going is much better.”