Your Gadgets' Dirty Origin Story: Forced Labor

Apple, Samsung, Sony products made at factories in question
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2014 10:27 AM CDT
Your Gadgets' Dirty Origin Story: Forced Labor
Electronics workers in Malaysia are suffering forced-labor conditions, a survey finds.   (Shutterstock)

Many factory workers behind Apple, Samsung, and other top electronics products are working in Malaysia—where 28% of electronics workers, and 32% of migrant workers in the industry, are stuck in forced labor, a report commissioned by the US government finds. Some 92% of the country's workers from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and elsewhere paid recruitment fees to get their jobs, and within that group, 92% paid more than the one month's pay that law or industry standards allow, the New York Times reports. Meanwhile, many have their passports taken, with 71% saying it would be hard or impossible to get the documents back.

Workers paid an average of $925 to obtain their jobs and travel to the country, more than Nepal's annual per-capita income, Reuters notes. Among those who borrowed money to pay recruitment fees, half had to work for more than a year to pay them off. Some 85% feel they can't leave their jobs before covering that debt, and most feel they have to work overtime to do so. The findings are based on monitors' survey of 501 workers at 200 factories. "This most modern of industrial sectors is characterized by a form of exploitation that long ago should have been relegated to the past," says an investigator. Apple, which uses some 30 factories in the country, says it has audited 18 of them over the past year and helped workers get back nearly $20 million in unfair recruitment fees, the Times reports. (More Malaysia stories.)

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