Apple's iPods are made by mainly female workers who earn as little as £27 per month, according to a report in the Mail on Sunday yesterday.
The report, 'iPod City', isn't available online. It offers photographs taken from inside the factories that make Apple music players, situated in China and owned by Foxconn.
The Mail visited some of these factories and spoke with staff there. It reports that Foxconn's Longhua plant houses 200,000 workers, remarking: "This iPod City has a population bigger than Newcastle's."
The report claims Longhua's workers live in dormitories that house 100 people, and that visitors from the outside world are not permitted. Workers toil for 15-hours a day to make the iconic music player, the report claims. They earn £27 per month. The report reveals that the iPod nano is made in a five-storey factory (E3) that is secured by police officers.
Another factory in Suzhou, Shanghai, makes iPod shuffles. The workers are housed outside the plant, and earn £54 per month - but they must pay for their accommodation and food, "which takes up half their salaries", the report observes.
A security guard told the Mail reporters that the iPod shuffle production lines are staffed by women workers because "they are more honest than male workers".
The report also explains that the nano contains 400 parts, and that its flash memory is the most expensive component. The report looks at several salient components of the nano, and describes the product as a reflecting the global way business works today. This is because the iPod nano contains parts developed by technology companies from across the planet.
Apple is just one of thousands of companies that now use Chinese facilities to manufacture its products, the report observes. Low wages, long hours and China's industrial secrecy make the country attractive to business, particularly as increased competition and consumer expectations force companies to deliver products at attractive prices.
Update, June 14: Since this report, Apple has issued a statement regarding the Mail's claims. The company referes to its code of practice for suppliers and says it is investigating the claims. Apple's statement is available Here.You can comment on this story in the Macworld UK Forum.