Apple Admits Suppliers Used Underage Staff

Dennis Faas's picture

Apple, Inc. says it has discovered that three of its overseas suppliers used a total of 11 staff  whose ages were below the legal work minimum. It also found evidence of many workers performing excessive hours or earning below the local minimum wage.

The firm reports 17 "core violations" of its standards were uncovered this year. This includes three facilities where workers were hired at 15 years of age, despite local minimum working ages being 16. Other problems include eight cases of workers being charged extortionate fees, three cases of suppliers using unauthorized contractors for disposing of dangerous waste, and three cases of falsified records being submitted. (Source:

In all the cases, Apple has demanded that the supplier rectify both the specific problem and any underlying systemic issues within 90 days.

Audit Seen As Corporate Responsibility

The details appear in a report covering Apple's standards for international suppliers and whether or not these have been met. The firm clearly believes that by publishing these details, even though some of them make for shocking reading, it will get across its message that it is trying to tackle the problems. The audits began after a 2006 scandal involving the abuse of workers in China. (Source:

Since the program launched, Apple has audited 190 facilities. In 2009 it trained 128,000 workers and 5,000 supervisors and managers in their relevant rights and responsibilities under Apple's standards.

Some of the standards Apple sets will be considered very lax by Western standards. For example, although it restricts the fees which recruiters can charge employees for finding them a position with an Apple supplier, the limit allows fees equivalent to as much as a month's wages.

Overworked, Underpaid Staff A Widespread Problem

Apple also found some problems not classed as core violations. For example, out of 102 facilities audited, in 60 workers were exceeding weekly hour limits more often than not. In 65 facilities, the majority of records showed staff working seven straight days, without a break in the past month.

The audit also found 24 facilities where staff received less than the local minimum wage and 57 where the employer was behind in payments of worker benefits.

There were also areas where suppliers, while in some cases meeting local laws, failed to meet Apple's standards on discrimination. This included situations where job candidates or existing workers were screened for Hepatitis B and 20 and where interviewers conducted pregnancy tests.

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