Recently The New York Times published an article highlighting the abuses of Apple contractors (namely Foxconn) in their Asian factories. This spurred some serious backlash and burst some hardcore Mac geek's bubbles in a real bad way. "What do you mean they are treating their employees badly, isn't Apple the nicest and most environmentally friendly corporation on the planet?" The answer is, no!
Apple's Not Doing Anything Ford and GMC haven't Done
Apple follows a similar business model that every other major manufacturer in the country has fallen prey to. If you want to have a competitive advantage, and you want to produce high volumes of product, you need to outsource production. America has production facilities but they're not cheap and they don't do high volume (relative to China and Korea). American production has become a collection of showcase and specialty manufacturing facilities.
What do I mean by this? Many of the production facilities in The United State are producing products in relatively small batch by small teams of highly skilled individuals. A majority of these companies also have sister operations in other countries (not so pretty) but the American divisions always serves as a showcase for prospective clients.
"Come see our production facilities and witness our investment in the latest technology. See our skilled craftsmen. Your products will flourish with the services we can provide you"
Meanwhile a huge part of what makes them the big bucks is manufactured in China, in what can best be described as a sweatshop. This is what America does. Just because it's not a foreign name, like Samsung or JVC (Japanese Video Company), doesn't mean it's not "made in China".
Made In America
Think about it. Is your Chevrolet Malibu manufactured in the United States. Is your Ford Fusion made in the United States. Not in most cases. At times foreign car maker's like Hyundai or Toyota have more manufacturing taking place on U.S. soil than the big three (Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler). It started in the 1970's with Detroit and Flint.
Flint, Michigan was a place where citizens did't even need a college education to earn a fruitful living. Generations of families worked at the GM plants and most families had two new General Motors vehicles in the driveway. After outsourcing, Flint became a burnt-out shell of a community filled with condemned buildings and staggering jobless rates.
GM claimed outsourcing wouldn't hurt the economy, but it did, and it has continued to plague the United States economy ever since. I don't see young people flourishing in this economy, they sure don't have two new GM vehicles in the driveway. I see huge college debt, unmanageable credit card debt, and low paying jobs.
Americans demand better prices on things. We want our iPad cheap and we don't want to wait for it. We want our clothing to be affordable. We want to own 20 gadgets not 3. The media and advertisers have us sold on the concept that our lives cannot be complete without more products! We have to have the latest and greatest or we won't be able to compare to the Jones's.
It's nonsense. 40 years ago most of the high-end products were coming from the United States and families could flourish on a single wage earner's salary. Now we can't even afford insurance. I don't think outsourcing has been good for the economy despite what our political representatives keep telling us. CEO's of big corporations are doing great, earning phenomenal six and seven figure salaries. Those who work for them aren't doing so well.
Made in China
People who think products that our made in China and other overseas countries are of inferior quality better check again. The craftsmanship of some of these products rival anything that has ever been produced in the US. The technology has left the United States and foreign manufacturers can really compete.
You will pay a premium for anything manufactured in the US but you won't always see a difference in quality. In many cases you can't even get a comparable product which is "made in the USA". Apple doesn't make anything except advertisements in the US. It's not really a choice.
The Asian continent has been bombarded with American companies who need their products made and it has been very good for their economy. The companies are getting what they want too. The products are being produced way cheaper (in comparison to the US costs). In part, this is because Asian workers are laboring for much lower hourly rates than US workers however; there is more to it than that. The products are also being produced more quickly and this comes at a cost to the work force.
Safety is being compromised for the sake of speed. Toxic chemicals are not handled with the appropriate precautions. Employees are prodded to rush through their work and accidents happen. Also, employees in many cases are encouraged or made to work long hours which causes fatigue and can lead to unnecessary accidents. All of this is standard practice in China. Still, people are lining up for those jobs and an opportunity to earn a paycheck for their families.
So while Apple and other manufacturers may do things to enhance the working conditions over in China, the general gist of manufacturing over there is heavy pollution, long work hours and minimal safety precautions. That's what feeds America's corporate machine and keeps the work flowing in from America's consumer goods industry.
If all people in the World were treated properly (better working conditions, proper facilities, and equal pay), there would be no need for outsourcing and products would cost a fortune. Also I don't think it was what our World leaders had in mind when they masterminded a global economy. Exploitation equals dollars signs whether it's Apple or General Motors, or Toyota. I'm not saying it's okay, just pointing out how it is.