Last week, The New York Times ran a controversial piece on the poor working conditions inside the factories of Apple’s supply chain. The report detailed awful labor practices including mandatory 60+ work weeks and hazardous working environments.
One of the many questions that arose in the wake of the article is, “why doesn’t Apple just make its products here in the USA?” That would mean more jobs for Americans, and labor laws to protect the workers. But what many folks don’t realize is that a lot of Apple’s handset is already made in the US…
“A report written by three U.S. professors showed that only about “$10 or less in direct labor wages goes into an iPhone or iPad is paid to Chinese workers.” The report points out that while Apple products — including components — are manufactured in China, the primary benefits go to the U.S. economy because Apple continues to keep most of its product design, software development, product management, marketing and other high-wage functions in the U.S., not China. China’s role is more of an assembler.”
Apple has a long list of people on its payroll that work directly on the iPhone. From top designers like Jony Ive and Scott Forstall, all the way down to low-level engineers and programmers, thousands of people have a hand in creating the popular handset. In the grand scheme of things, iPhone assembly — while obviously vital to the device’s existence — is just a small piece of what makes up the pie.
And the fact of the matter is that labor has been, and for the foreseeable future will be, cheaper in China than in the US. The United States has laws like minimum wage and organizations like OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) that would drive up Apple’s costs substantially. It’s sad, but it’s true.