ABC Report Reveals Working Conditions at Foxconn’s iFactory

Latest Update: Viewers in the US can now watch this full episode on ABC.com.

Having just viewed the ABC Nightline special titled iFactory: Inside Apple, I was intrigued by the insights provided into Foxconn’s operations, where Apple’s popular products are assembled. The episode, hosted by Bill Weir, didn’t reveal much new information for those familiar with the topic, but it did shed light on why many choose to work at Foxconn and the conditions they face there.

Weir begins by delving into the allure of Apple’s products, then transitions to the manufacturing process. He was surprised to learn that constructing an iPhone involves 141 distinct steps and is primarily done by hand. Highlighting the production scale, Weir notes that Foxconn can produce 300,000 iPad camera modules daily across two 12-hour shifts.

It reportedly takes five days and 300 workers to assemble a single iPad, emphasizing the human element in manufacturing. Weir observed that most workers appeared to be under 30 years old.

During Weir’s visit, he witnessed thousands of young individuals queuing to apply for jobs at Foxconn, with the only apparent requirement being a valid national ID. Weir repeatedly mentioned the overwhelming demand for Apple products, which keeps Foxconn in constant hiring mode, providing brief training sessions before newcomers join the production line. Many workers are young, around 18 years old, coming from poor rural areas, which, according to some village residents, improves life back home by reducing the youth population.

This migration seems to alleviate some generational tensions, though it undoubtedly affects family dynamics.

The working conditions at Foxconn, as shown in the report, were relatively unremarkable except for safety nets installed around high-rise dormitories to deter suicides—a response to the factory’s notorious past incidents. Foxconn executive Louis Woo explained that Apple CEO Tim Cook had visited to set up counseling services aimed at preventing further tragedies.

Contrary to many Western factories, the facilities at Foxconn seemed well-maintained, according to Weir. Workers’ complaints were typical—wages, food quality, and long hours. Notably, workers are housed in dormitories, sharing rooms with seven others, a common practice in densely populated China.

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Thomas is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing insightful news and updates about Apple products to readers. With a deep understanding of the Apple ecosystem, Thomas covers everything from the latest iPhone and iPad releases to MacBook innovations and Apple Watch features. His clear and engaging writing style helps readers stay informed about the tech world. Thomas’s expertise and enthusiasm for Apple products make him a valuable contributor to the TUAW team.