iPhone Production and Putting Wages in Context

This article from 9to5Mac had me thinking:

The company has reportedly introduced mandatory overtime for workers, and employees have been asked to forgo the eight-day national holiday beginning on October 1 …

Sounds…not great, by American standards. On the other hand:

One worker said some are happy to comply with the stringent iPhone 12 production demands because the law entitles them to triple pay for the first three days of this national holiday.

Some other tidbits I found:

  • Around 2012 average Foxcon factory worker pay was ~400 USD/month.
  • Today, the 9to5Mac story claims this overtime and special pay can lead to ~900 USD/month.
  • There are additional bonuses and incentive pay based upon staying for more than 90 days, and working at least 55 of them. This can lead to a near-1500 USD bonus.

How could this information be put into the proper context? By the standards of this country, it’s quite low. A common complaint lobbed from the cheap seats is that Foxcon exploits its workforce to produce the iPhone each year for much wealthier countries.

This blog post from the New York Times back in 2012 seems to shed some light on how overtime is viewed:

Keith Bradsher, The Times’s Hong Kong bureau chief, added this by e-mail:

“Overtime pay does indeed make a big difference in the compensation of Chinese factory workers. Such workers tend to volunteer for considerable overtime, trying to save as much money as quickly as possible so as to go back to their home village, often to start a business. Companies also assign extra overtime during busy periods, sometimes violating regulatory caps on total overtime a month. Regulations to limit overtime have been partly successful.”

And things look to be improving rapidly, per WCCF Tech:

Even though Apple factory worker wages in China are considered to be low by North American standards, the fact is they have been on the rise for the last decade. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, China’s average wage increased by 8.2% annually between 2008 – 2017 compared to a global rate of 1.8% for the same time period.

It’s a story about how all things need to be put into the proper context. For someone in the US to be earning $400 per month working six days per week in a factory would be viewed with disgust. When forming an opinion on something, it’s best to avoid exporting your own value system out to another country which has a different one.

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