Apple has been
criticized for its
treatment of Chinese
Apple is admired by consumers
worldwide for its consumer-friendly
products, innovative ideas, stylish
approach and management. It is
regularly listed as one of the strongest
brands in international marketing. At
the same time, Apple has been
criticized for its treatment of workers
in its Chinese production facilities,
most of which are owned by suppliers
outside of the company.
The workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other
devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to
employees inside those plants, worker advocates and
documents published by companies themselves.
Problems are as varied as onerous work environments
and serious – sometimes deadly – safety problems.
Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases
seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say
they stand so long that their legs swell until they can
One of Apple’s most important suppliers is Foxconn. Foxconn
employees attempted suicide or fell from buildings in possible
suicides. Foxconn has been singled out for criticism of its working
conditions and crowded dormitories. In 2011, riots broke out in the
company’s Chengdu dormitories over worker issues. The New York
Times reported Foxconn’s official response, which said, ‘Conditions
at Foxconn are anything but harsh … All assembly line employees
are given regular breaks, including one-hour lunch breaks …
Foxconn has a very good safety record … Foxconn has come a long
way in our efforts to lead our industry in China in areas such as
workplace conditions and the care and treatment of our
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC
• It is important to understand cultural issues when judging
Apple’s and Foxconn’s conduct. Many of the Chinese
workers, who often live in dormitories, migrate from rural
areas to make as much money as possible to send home
to their families. These workers may view their jobs as
opportunities to maximise income during a short period of
time before returning to their villages to live. Some of
these workers are willing to work long hours and may not
view the conditions as being as harsh as Westerners
would. Still, Apple has a formal code of conduct for its
suppliers to follow and regularly conducts audits of
Apple actions to
The company actively works to prevent child labour. It trains
factory owners and management as well as millions of workers in
proper working practices. Apple is increasing its transparency
and regularly publishes supplier responsibility progress reports.
Under pressure from various non-governmental organisations
and the media, Apple released a list of its suppliers in 2012. Also,
Apple has limited control over these independent companies,
and good suppliers are hard to find. Strict compliance measures
along with ongoing pressures to reduce costs may lead to
deceptions and abuses by the suppliers and may inhibit real
change. But continued problems may lead to greater concerns
among Apple’s customers and put the brand at risk.
• The New York Times summarised the issue
by quoting a current Apple executive as
follows: ‘You can either manufacture in
comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you
can reinvent the product every year, and
make it better and faster and cheaper, which
requires factories that seem harsh by
American standards … And right now,
customers care more about a new iPhone
than working conditions in China.’
Tutorial activity 1
Answer the following questions and include specific
examples where appropriate:
1. Should Apple continue to work with suppliers such as
2. How can modern slavery be prevented in the workplace?
3. What can Apple do more than it is currently doing to
improve worker conditions?
4. Would continued problems prevent you from buying an
Bribery and corruption
Bribery and corruption continue to be a major
international business challenge. Some firms claim that
in many countries, public-sector contracts simply cannot
be obtained unless major payments are made to
government officials. Furthermore, the OECD
Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public
Officials in International Business Transactions exposes
companies and their managers to criminal charges in
their home country for bribery. On the other hand,
many competing firms are said to bribe their way to the
contract. Such action is particularly onerous when a
specific project serves as the entryway into subsequent,
much larger business activities.
In consequence, some firms keep at a distance from
their foreign-appointed ‘middlemen’ and agents, since
they do not want to know the details how the contract
was won. Others develop in-house formal anti-bribery
programs that all employees must learn about.
Bribery and corruption
Tutorial activity 2
Answer the following questions and include specific examples
1. What are examples of bribery in business?
2. What impact does corruption have on entrepreneurs?
3. How does bribery affect the workplace?
4. As an entrepreneur, how do you evaluate the need to go
beyond the letter of the law?
5. What is the punishment for bribery in Australia?