Concerns about human rights violations at factories that make Apple’s iPad are not stopping Apple and its competitors from turning to China and Taiwan for labor. Nine out of ten tablets shipped this year will be made by contract laborers, according to IHS iSuppli, with China’s Hon Hai (also known as Foxconn) the biggest producer.
“Tablet brands use outsourcing for many reasons, including faster time to market; the leveraging of capabilities, especially for firmware development and hardware integration; and asset flexibility that translates into reduced corporate expenditures and lower headcount,” says Jeffrey Wu of IHS. Firms like Foxconn and Taiwan’s Quanta also make personal computers and smartphones, so they can leverage both of these capabilities to manufacture tablets efficiently.
Of course many of Foxconn’s “efficiencies” are known to come from long hours and crowded factories. By July of next year, Foxconn has pledged to bring its factories into compliance with Chinese labor laws as well as the standards of the international Fair Labor Association.
IHS iSuppli says Foxconn made 62% of the tablets shipped last year. The company has expanded beyond China, investing heavily in Brazil. Foxconn has had operations in Brazil since 2005, and this month a Sao Paulo official told RCR Wireless News that the government has not received any formal complaints about working conditions during that time.