Foxconn’s newly constructed facility in Zhengzhou, China, has been the subject of much scrutiny and criticism over the past few months. The plant is where many of our beloved iPhones are born, yet there have been reports that working and living conditions (that’s right, the plant’s 115,000 employees work and live there) are austere and unfair.
Although Apple is notoriously secretive when it comes to details about how its products are designed and assembled, a reporter and camera crew from Chinese news site iFeng was recently permitted to take a tour of the facility. As CNET points out, the video is in Chinese without subtitles and offers little in the way of details about iPhone production or even working conditions. However, it does allow us to peer behind the veil of the Apple factory, showing just how many people and machines are necessary to keep up with global demand for the iPhone.
The video begins with an aerial show of the factory complex, the 5.6-square-kilometer plant (about 3.5 square miles) is bigger than any other in Zhengzhou, and features the largest employee living quarters. You’ll probably notice that the factory appears to be the only sign of life in the surrounding wasteland. According to a translation of the video, the wasteland around the factory is being reserved for further expansion.
Once inside the facility, the crew is shown the area where iPhone 4S displays are made and then the area where workers produce 10,000 motherboards every day. They are also allowed to enter a clean room where the phone’s cameras are assembled.
Although Apple insists that its suppliers “provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes,” third-party investigations have shown that employees in some Chinese factories are subjected to low-pay, unfair treatment, long-hours, and hazardous working conditions. This glimpse inside the Zhenzhou factory provides the perfect opportunity to consider whether our gadgets are worth the sacrifice of social justice ideals.