China's current Five Year Plan seeks to improve conditions for workers, with electronics one of the priority sectors. James Rose looks at the challenges that must be overcome
When the first Apple iPhone landed in the second half of 2007, it went on to sell 6 million units in its first year, across four countries. The turnaround time to market for this first model was six months. By 2012, the turnaround was two weeks and Apple was moving 230 million iPhones to more than 100 countries.
This phenomenal growth, mirrored in various degrees across the whole industry, is arguably the fastest and biggest supply chain development for any sector, ever. As supply chains have been put on steroids, the impact on workers in the electronics sector has been pointed. In the opinion of Hong Kong-based academic Jack Linchuan Qiu, it’s been “a bloody decade of labour abuse”.
The electronics supply chain is long. Not only is it bloated with workers on the production line, but it reaches backwards into the mining of raw materials, so-called 3TG minerals, and forwards to include e-waste disposal.
The seemingly unending litany of labour abuses by suppliers has tarred the entire electronics supply chain out of China
Also, the market is rapidly changing. Recent years have seen shifting product trends as the global market for PCs and laptops drops, and demand for ever-newer versions of...