updated 11:00 pm EST, Wed March 6, 2013
Workers limited to 60 hours per week, 1M workers tracked
In an update to its Supplier Responsibility pages, Apple on Wednesday now shows that the companies in its supply chain are 99 percent compliant with Apple's guidelines that individual workers -- of which Apple now has more than one million in China and Taiwan -- are limited to no more than 60 hours of work per week. While seemingly a high figure by western standards, factory workers often seek overtime in an attempt to escape the cycle of rural poverty or to support elders in the family. The company reports that the average number of weekly hours is now below 50.
Apple's guidelines and local laws require no more than 60 hours per week, with the exception of limited periods of exceptionally high demand. As the chart below shows, compliance fell dramatically during the run-up to the holiday buying season, but bounced back and achieved its new high score once December arrived. The company says it is now tracking the work hours of over one million supplier employees, and corroborates reports from Foxconn that factory workers are now capped on overtime, which must now always be voluntary.
Foxconn did recently reduce the number of new hires, but said this was due to a higher number of existing workers returning following the customary New Year break. The greater retention, along with improved scores on worker satisfaction, suggest that changes demanded by Apple and implemented by Foxconn have taken hold.
Despite the fact that Apple has led the reforms in the mostly China-based supplier factories (and has received inordinate publicity blaming it for previous problems), the same companies generally also do work for Apple's rivals and other electronics companies. Foxconn, as an example, also helps build most Android smartphones, the Playstation 3 and Wii U, HP computer, many Android tablets and a host of other devices for smaller companies.
Apple is the only company of Foxconn's clients that has proactively promoted a system of greater worker rights, safety and education, and stricter enforcement of both overtime limits and rules against underage worker hiring. Apple says that in 2012 its audits found no cases of underage labor in its final assembly suppliers, though Apple has acknowledged issues with underage workers in previous years and fired suppliers over it.