Apple is recently under fire for having underpaid workers assemble iPods in China. Turns out the workers are paid a measly $101 (810 yuan) dollars a month, and are forced to live in factory dormitories.

$1,212 a year certainly doesn’t seem like a whole lot, and it isn’t. But it is worth noting that China’s GDP per capita is $7,204, which means that these workers are making–at worst–17% of the national average income. Given the average per capita GDP in the US ($41,399), that works out to the equivalent of $6,965 annually, or (assuming a 40 hour work week, which may be a very large assumption), the equivalent of about $3.48 an hour. If I were making $3.48 an hour, I might also be willing to take free factory housing, as well.

Now, I am not saying that it would be a very good thing if these workers were paid better. But the trick is that they are being paid better than they would be otherwise. I believe that the extreme income disparity that exists between countries and within countries is something worth fighting against. But especially here, if we can provide factory jobs for the very poor in China (and these workers do not represent the very poor), and move manufacturing jobs from prison labor to legitimate waged labor, it is worth encouraging that, I think.

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  1. Posted 6/19/2006 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    What the articles on Apple have failed to make clear is that Apple uses a Taiwan company as a middleman in China and that these wage rates are actually quite a bit lower than most American companies are paying.

  2. Posted 6/20/2006 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to point out that 800 rmb is pretty damn good, especially if you get housing. In big cities, waitresses and menial labour is making 400-500 yuan a month…

    maybe less in poor cities!

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