I’ve worked at a lot of different jobs in my life, but there are a few I’d never like to try: picking crops on a farm, working in a chicken processing plant, and working in any kind of factory. The relentless assembly lines and the noise of the machines would be hard to deal with. Even those factories without deafening machines still seem like harsh places to work, if only because of the cadence they impose on employees.
Whatever device you’re reading this article on was built in a factory, most likely in China. In this country, not known for its pleasant working conditions, all the major computer manufacturers have their devices built and assembled. Including Apple.
Apple has been publishing Supplier Responsibility Progress Reports on its website since 2007, detailing the efforts the company has made to improve the conditions of workers. (You can read this year’s report right here.)
But has it made a difference? This is what journalist Richard Bilton set out to find. The BBC ran a documentary last night on its Panorama program (roughly the British equivalent of 60 Minutes, except each show is a full hour about a single topic). He wanted to know whether the conditions in Apple’s plants had improved since the company promised, following a series of suicides at a Foxconn plant in 2010, to improve them.