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Did Apple force teenagers to make Apple Watch?

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Tech giant Apple says it will probe claims made in an investigative report by a Non-Governmental Organisation that stated the iPhone and iPad maker is forcing teenagers in China to make the company’s popular Apple Watch.

Apple has denied that it exploited student interns at the facilities of one of its suppliers in producing the Apple Watch Series 4 which was unveiled in mid September. The company said it would look into the claims of an internship program at a Chinese factory that is not meeting educational requirements but is instead amounting to forced labour.

According to international media outlets, Apple spokeswoman Wei Gu said that a factory belonging to the iTech firm’s supplier Quanta Chongqing was a new Apple supplier and had been audited three times between March and June without finding student interns.

“We are urgently investigating the report that student interns added in September are working overtime and night shifts,” said Wei Gu.

The denial of the oppression of student labour is a different account from that of a Hong-Kong based labour rights group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM).

A SACOM report titled, “Apple Watch Series 4 – Still Failed to Protect Teenage Student Workers” was published on October 23 and is a follow up to a 2017 report that had claimed Apple was exploiting students in China for the production of its Apple Watch Series 3.


The NGO says that its 2018 report “discloses that Apple Inc. is undoubtedly manufacturing Apple Watch in Quanta Chongqing facilities using significant numbers of student workers aged 16-19 years.”  SACOM also says that working conditions for student interns in the factory do not comply with the standards set by the Chinese government.

SACOM said that its major findings were;

  1. Irrelevant Majors: Students majoring in subjects unrelated to the electronics industry are still being sent to work as ordinary production line workers. The majors include e-commerce, makeup and hair beauty, early education, hotel management etc.
  2. Absence of educational elements: Students reported that the internships have literally nothing to do with learning. None of the learning documents required by the law are prepared for the students.
  3. Forced labour: Students reported that they cannot receive their graduation certificate without performing the compulsory internship. Schools also pressure students’ parents to make the students work.
  4. Unlawful shift arrangements: It is very common for student interns at Quanta to work 12 hours a day and night shifts, both of which is in violation of local regulations.
  5. Unlawful Recruitment: Students in their year 1 of enrollment are also sent to the factory to work, which is in violation of local regulations.

One 18-year old student worker told SACOM that the department they were in had around 120 students from their school and that their main responsibility was to re-assemble Apple Watches that did not pass the initial quality test. “At the beginning our daily production target was 1200 pieces per day. This target was raised later.”

“We are like robots on the production lines. We repeat the same procedure for hundreds and thousands of times every day, like a robot,” the student added.

The NGO conducted online interviews via digital communication channels and assessed the student interns on provisions of a Chinese government regulations and standards set by Apple in its internship program.

One of the regulations stated that the interns would be placed in departments relevant to their field of study, but according to one student, this was not the case. “My major is e-commerce and my work here is assembling parts on a production line. It has nothing to do with my major.”


Of the 28 students interviewed, none of them received any extra training designed specifically for
their internships. “Throughout the entire period of their internship, they worked in the same position performing the same highly repetitive tasks,” the SACOM report says.

One of the students seemed to affirm this. The student studying professional electronics told SACOM “We haven’t received any training because the task is so simple and repetitive. You know how to perform the task once you see a senior demonstrate it once. All you have to do is to repeat and repeat.”

Another student said that when they queried a senior as to why all they were doing was to plug in cables into motherboards, the senior replied that it was none of their business and that they should continue plugging in the cables.

When SACOM inquired of the interviewees whether they had the chance to refuse the internship program, the students said that to do so would be deterimental.

“This is a compulsory internship program. Our graduation certificate will be withheld by the school if we refuse to come,” said one student.

Another told SACOM that when their teacher got wind the student did not want to participate, the teacher called the learner’s father for an hour’s discussion, after which the parent pressured the student into taking the internship.


SACOM also says it found that most of the student interns worked illegal overtime hours, extended night shifts and on an additional day over the weekend.

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Mike Njorogehttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
Mike Njoroge is the founder of Daystar Oracle and FootballTriangle. He is passionate about news, religion and sports. He can be reached at: [email protected]



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