Reports find Smartphone, tablets made by “Modern-day” slaves

A report by Verite, a group that monitors child labour, slavery and dangerous working conditions, has found that many people part of the electronics industry in Malaysia virtually work as bonded labourers.

Verite said that its two-year study of labour conditions in electronics manufacturing in Malaysia found that one in three foreign workers surveyed in Malaysian electronics was in a condition of forced labour. “Because many of the most recognizable brands source components of their products from Malaysia, this means that virtually every device on the market today may have come in contact with modern-day slavery,” the group said in its report.

While preparing the report, Verite interviewed over 500 workers.

“Verite’s study is the most comprehensive look at forced labour in the Malaysian electronics sector to date,” said Dan Viederman, CEO of Verite. “Our report provides a clear sense of the scope of the problem in the industry, as well as the root causes underlying this egregious form of abuse, which centre on unlawful and unethical recruitment practices.”

As companies like Apple and Samsung struggle to satisfy demand for their latest phones, there is a lot of pressure on the manufacturers in China and other Asian countries that make parts for these devices.

In 2012, the New York Times published several reports that highlighted the tough working conditions for workers in factories making Apple products, including iPhones. After the reports, Apple said that it would carry out audits in the factories of its manufacturers and would not do business with violators.

The company also asked Fair Labour Association (FLA) to carry out inspections at factories operated by Foxconn, which is the main manufacturer for Apple products.

“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers,” Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, said in 2012. “The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.”

However, it is not Apple that have come under fire over the issue of tough working conditions for labourers who make smartphones.

In 2012, a group called China Labour Watch said that it found girls younger than 16 working in factories that made Samsung products. Earlier this year, Samsung said that it terminated contract with one of its manufacturers in China after it found evidence of child labour in its factories.

The Verite study said that in Malaysia, the widespread reliance on third-party agents for the recruitment, management and employment of foreign workers limits their protections and blurs accountability for labour conditions.


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