Following weeks of intense scrutiny of worker treatment at Apple's Chinese suppliers, the tech giant granted Nightline's Bill Weir unprecedented access to component-maker Foxconn. With over 1 million employees, Foxconn is one of the largest employers in mainland China, and makes parts for many technology companies including Intel, Dell, Nintendo, and, of course, Apple.
Weir, who toured a Foxconn factory in Shenzen, was struck by the insular lives of the 235,000 workers at Foxconn's Shenzen plant.
Many of the workers are teenagers (Weir noted that no one looked over 30) who had come from small villages to labor over high-tech gadgets for 12 hour-long shifts. Not only do they work at Foxconn, but many of them also live there. Weir toured the dormitories, where employees pay $17.50 a month to live seven to a room. According to Forbes, Foxconn employees make about $1.78 per hour.
When asked about their lives at the factory, Weir noted that many of the workers shared complaints similar to any worker: the pay is too low, the food prices too high and they get tired. When asked what she thinks about during work, one young mother of two told Weir, "A lot of the time I think about how tired I am. I think about resting."
Of course, it becomes obvious that working at Foxconn is not like working anywhere else, as soon as the infamous suicide nets come into view. These nets were installed between buildings after a spate of worker suicides in 2010. According to the segment, Apple CEO Tim Cook, then Apple's COO, flew to Shenzhen following the series of suicides and put together a team of experts to examine the issue, and these experts recommended installing the nets. There have been 18 worker suicides at Foxconn since 2010, which, according to Nightline, is well below China's national average.
Weir meets up with Auret van Heerdenan, President of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), an organization that Apple has asked to conduct "special voluntary audits" of the working conditions at its component makers' factories. The auditor says one thing he looks in the workers are simply signs of curiosity and liveliness, such as looking up when he walks by. According to Forbes, the FLA is expected to post the results of the audit in March.
Weir reported several facts about productivity at Foxconn's plant. According to his report, it takes five days and 325 hands to make an iPad and 141 steps to put together an iPhone. Weir notes he was surprised by how few machines were in place, and remarked that the gadgets seemed entirely assembled by hand.
Check out a clip from the segment below, and watch the full report on ABC here: