Foxconned Labour as the Dark Side of the Information Age: Working Conditions at Apple’s Contract Manufacturers in China.

  • Marisol Sandoval City University London
Keywords: Apple, Foxconn, Working Conditions, Digital Labour, Electronics Manufacturing, Value Chain, China, Political Economy of ICTs, Corporate Watchdog


Apple is one of the most dominant and most admired computer companies in the world. But hidden behind the clean surface of Apple’s advanced gadgets lies a dirty world of work. This paper focuses on the dark side of the information age by looking at working conditions in the workshops of Apple’s contract manufacturers in China. For this purpose I suggest a systematic model of working conditions that can be used for assessing and comparing work in different industries. Departing from Karl Marx’s circuit of capital it identifies elements that shape working conditions throughout the capital accumulation process including productive forces, relations of production, the production process, products, and labour legislation. Subsequently I apply this model to the realm of electronics manufacturing. Based on research conducted by corporate watchdogs this paper provides detailed insights into the work and life reality of workers in Apple’s first tier supplier factories. An analysis of Apple’s response to labour rights allegations furthermore reveals three ideological patterns that rather obscure existing problems than offering viable solutions.

Author Biography

Marisol Sandoval, City University London

Marisol Sandoval is a Lecturer in Culture, Policy and Management at City University London. In January 2013 shecompleted her PhD degree in Communication Studies at the University of Salzburg, Austria. In her dissertation entitled “Monster Media? Critical Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility in Media and Communication Industries” Marisol contributed to the development of a critical political economy perspective on CSR.  From 2008 until 2010 she was a research fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies and Research in Information and Communication Technologies & Society (ICT&S Centre), University of Salzburg. Between 2010 and 2012 Marisol held a DOC scholarship from the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Her main research interests include alternative media, critical political economy of media and communication, the global division of labour in the culture industry, and Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility.