The world’s biggest laptop brands rely on Chinese student labourers as young as 16 to work 12-hour days on factory production lines, with their funding and graduation at risk if they fail to comply, a labour watchdog has claimed.
Students on vocational courses are recruited in their thousands to produce keyboards, assemble parts and fit screws during internships at Quanta Computer, a Taiwan-owned Fortune 500 company whose factories in China supply Apple, Acer, Hewlett-Packard and Sony, among many others.
If students refuse, they are told their funding will be cut or they will not receive their diploma, claims a report by Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom), a Hong Kong-based non-profit.
Apple told the Guardian that “it does not have any operations at the Quanta Chongqing facility”.
Chinese law requires internships to be directly related to students’ course of study. Of nine students interviewed by Sacom, only four were studying electronics.
But researchers say weaker law enforcement and labour monitoring by civil society in inland China – compared to coastal China, from where many electronics companies have relocated – means that labour abuses are able to go largely unchecked. Inland wages are also lower and local government tax allowances to attract businesses bigger, according to Sacom.