Bonded servitude is unfortunately a common occurance in many Asian countries, specifically China. Apple does a lot of business with these countries, ranging from manufacturering to mining. Many of these companies use what is sometimes referred to as bonded servitude. Essentially, this is a practice that forces workers to be in debt to the company when they start working for them. They’ll have to pay for the privledge to have their job, and their pay is docked to pay off that debt. Often passports or other forms of ID are held as collateral. Apple doesn’t think that’s very fair, and it’s not hard to see why.
In the Asian countries that make use of these practices, the indebted workers are unlikely to pay off the debt quickly, no matter how hard they work. They live on site in many cases, with cramped dorm rooms and long work hours. In fact, Apple had to set a maximum of 60 hours per week, longer than the 40 hours per week many Americans work, which is even now being called too long. Many manufacturing plants find ways around Apple’s restrictions, including those on too much overtime, which is frequently unpaid. As such, these employees are more like slaves.
Apple now has a solution for these workers. Apple has told the companies in their supply chain to bill them instead of the employees, freeing workers from the initial debt. Many of the workers are still in sub par conditions, making little money, working long hours, and living on site, but at least they aren’t forced to by a debt owed to the company. Employees in Apple’s supply chain are treated better than anyone else in the industry, but working conditions in Asian countries still have a long way to go. At least Apple is pushing them to be better, although many other electronics manufacturers have not made the same push.