|Late Thursday, Apple updated its public Supplier Responsibility Report [PDF] with news that it had increased audits throughout the company's supply chain by 72 percent over 2011 levels. It also reported an increase in compliance among suppliers with a 60-hour work week maximum, now at 92 percent. The biggest news, however, is that Apple fired one of its suppliers -- Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics (PZ) -- after uncovering some 74 child labor violations, along with reporting other suppliers for not paying sufficient overtime.
In addition, Apple reported the labor agency accused of supplying PZ with the underage workers to authorities. Schools and other institutions forging documents to allow underage children to work in factories is a common problem in many parts of China, as the students often come from rural families dealing with crushing poverty and want or are forced to work in order to send money back home. The labor agency, which encouraged families to use falsified documents, ended up having its license suspended and will pay a fine.
Apple reported that the severing of the business relationship with PZ over underage labor caused a company that subcontracts to PZ to do its own audits, "proving that one discovery can have far-reaching effects," the company wrote. Apple conducted a total of 393 audits across its supply chain in 2012, which focused on environmental, safety, business and employment practices. It says it is now tracking more than one million employees, and posting monthly reports on its website.
The improved compliance with the 60-hour maximum law represents a significant improvement in a single year -- in last year's report, compliance was at 38 percent. None of the incidents detailed in the latest report had any direct connection to Foxconn, Apple's main supplier of device assembly labor.
Foxconn itself appears to have taken its relationship with Apple seriously enough to enforce a series of reforms that have dramatically reduced incidents of underage workers and unpaid or mandatory overtime, though Foxconn did admit late last year it had hired interns who were under 16. It promised to strictly enforce legal hiring policies going forward.