Apple's supply chain: A profile of a Foxconn factory employee

The Fair Labor Association's report on Foxconn's working conditions provides a nice composite sketch of your average Apple supply chain worker.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

The average Foxconn worker logs at least 56 hours a week, finds the factory stressful, has seen an accident, wants better air conditioning and plans on a tenure of about two years. That worker also wants better food in the canteen.

Welcome to Apple's supply chain.

After logging 3,000 staff hours while investigating three factories since February, the Fair Labor Association finally released its very detailed report about labor rights violations going on within the factories of Apple's largest supplier, Foxconn. What has emerged from the report is a composite sketch of the day in the life of an Apple supply chain worker.

The FLA found many severe violations when it came to excessive overtime as well as health and safety risks, among other issues.

See also: New Foxconn regulations will ripple through Apple’s supply chain CNET: Foxconn audit finds violations, fixes promised

FLA assessors surveyed more than 35,000 randomly-selected workers anonymously while investigating the charges against Foxconn. Approximately 65 percent of respondents were male and 35 percent were female. The average age was 27.

Overall, 65 percent of these workers also grew up in a village, and 72.2 percent of them considered themselves as migrant workers. At least a third of them had completed vocational school training, while 12.4 percent had a university degree. Only 0.1 percent had no schooling at all.

Approximately 87.4 percent of those surveyed were labeled as a factory worker, while 5.9 percent were supervisors. Only 22.1 percent of them are members of the trade union.

Based on the data published in one of the appendices of the FLA's report, entitled "Foxconn Technology Group Workforce Perception and Satisfaction Report, 2012," here's a glance at what an average Foxconn factory worker's experience might have looked like:

  • The average number of hours worked per week ranged between 56 to 61 hours
  • Worked more than seven days in a row without the required 24 hours off
  • Didn't receive fair compensation for unscheduled overtime, nor was compensation enough to pay for basic needs (especially for education and healthcare)
  • Finds work at the factory overall to be stressful
  • Lived in a crowded dorm
  • Either experienced or witnessed an accident while at work
  • Found the factory canteen and the bathrooms to be unsanitary
  • Found air conditioning and other ventilation systems to be working inadequately
  • Felt body pain at the end of a full day of work (most commonly neck, back, arm and hand pain)
  • Never heard of management consulting with workers or representatives about factory regulations and conditions
  • Never surveyed or asked about workplace satisfaction
  • Never used any communication channels to voice suggestions or complaints to factory management
  • Thinks that environmental issues and protection at the factory should be priorities
  • Has a friend or relative also working at the factory
  • Will only maybe stay working at the factory for another two years -- even if he/she doesn't have a sense of "belonging" at the factory

If factory workers could change three things, the most highly rated responses were salaries, more skills training, and the quality of food at the canteen.

The FLA has already issued new guidelines that it expects Foxconn factories to adhere to going forward. These rules include reducing the number of monthly overtime hours from 80 to 36, compensation packages that protects workers from losing income due to reduced overtime, and requiring supervisors and workers to report all accidents that result in an injury.

Along with outlining rules and regulations that Foxconn has since committed to, the FLA will issue regular progress reports about how well (or not) both Foxconn and Apple are implementing them.

A full copy of the FLA's report is available online now.


Editorial standards