Are we fixating on Apple and overlooking the same fault elsewhere?
By Stephen WITHERS
Apple's copping a lot of flak over ongoing revelations concerning poor working conditions (by Western standards) at factories operated by the companies it contracts to build its products.
Even though other well-known brands are sometimes mentioned in passing in news reports and feature articles on the subject (contract manufacturing has become the norm), Apple seems to be singled out by writers and consequently members of the public.
I'd suggest there are two reasons for this. Firstly, stories mentioning Apple attract a substantial audience, including people with strong opinions in favour of or against the company. That tends to lead to heated discussions, which increase page views, which increase advertising revenue, which (directly or indirectly) assists the writers' income.
Yes, I am paid to write (though not here - the Hydrapinion team is engaged in a labour of love), and I am aware that traffic, advertising revenue and my income are all bound together. But I do try draw a line between writing on topics that I think will interest my readers (why write something that nobody wants to read?) and outright 'click whoring'.
Secondly, there seems to be a feeling in some quarters that because Apple is much more profitable than the rest of the industry, it could afford to pay more to improve working conditions in the factories. We've seen similar reasoning in the recent criticism of Australian banks for retrenching staff and sending their jobs offshore.
The implication is that it's OK for companies that have chosen a low price, low margin strategy to tolerate poor labour practices at companies they engage to build hardware, but it's not OK for Apple - even though the same manufacturing companies are involved. I don't buy that. If people in the 'developed world' want to call for improved working conditions in Chinese factories, that's legitimate. But any suggestion that those making cheap goods should be excluded smacks of hypocrisy.
Yes, I am aware of the argument that says a job in an electronics factory is better that labouring in a field out in the country. And I'm not saying Apple deserves a free pass - only that other companies don't deserve them either.
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