In the wake of the This American Life debacle, Foxconn, the company in Shenzhen, China that manufactures Apple products, has been on quite a PR kick to show that their working conditions are humane. This past month Apple's new CEO Tim Cook visited Foxconn facilities in China. In the same week, workers at Foxconn were given assurances their wages would grow and they would work less hours.
Foxconn has even allowed a reporter onto their factory floor, only the second ever. Rob Schmitz recalls his journey through the sprawling factory-city, on American Public Media's Marketplace:
The first misconception I had about Foxconn’s Longhua facility in the city of Shenzhen was that I’ve always called it a ‘factory’ -- technically, it is. But after you enter the gates and walk around, you quickly realize that it’s also a city -- 240,000 people work here. Nearly 50,000 of them live on campus in shared dorm rooms. There’s a main drag lined on both sides with fast-food restaurants, banks, cafes, grocery stores, a wedding photo shop, and an automated library. There are basketball courts, tennis courts, a gym, two enormous swimming pools, and a bright green astroturf soccer stadium smack-dab in the middle of campus. There’s a radio station -- Voice of Foxconn -- and a television news station. Longhua even has its own fire department, located right on main street. This is not what comes to mind when you think “Chinese factory.”
Schmitz goes on to talk about the netting that surrounds the roofs of the complex, placed there to deter suicides. He interviews workers, who say the conditions aren't as bad as some Americans seem to believe. They do have complaints, but they don't strike me as too much different than the complaints employees at a large Walmart in the Midwest U.S. might have.
The most fascinating part of Schmitz's report is the video he shot of an iPad being constructed. The most surprising thing, to me, is that the iPad is almost completely handmade. It makes the $500 price tag look pretty good when you see the care that is taken to assemble all of those expensive components: