Labor Practices in Apple’s Supply Chains in China

Jenny Chan, 2020

Name of publisher/editor

Tony Dundon and Adrian Wilkinson. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing

Geographic area




Summary & key words

"By early August 2018, Apple had transformed itself from a tiny producer of computers in a garage in 1976 to the world’s most valuable publicly traded company, with a market capitalization that surpassed US$1 trillion. To put the US$1 trillion valuation in perspective, Apple’s worth is more than the economies of Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Taiwan. During fiscal 2018 (ended 29 September), Apple’s fastest growth came in the Americas, followed by Europe, with annual gains surpassing 42 percent in the Americas and 23.5 percent in Europe, while Greater China generated nearly 20 percent of revenues. Apple’s net sales (US$265.6 billion) increased 16 percent or US$36.4 billion during 2018 compared to 2017, primarily driven by growth in services (digital content and customer services) and higher sales of iPhone. Looking back, during the 1990s Apple had exported all of its manufacturing jobs overseas, its only remaining production site being a Mac assembly factory in Ireland. This outsourcing means that Apple’s success is inseparable from the contributions of its suppliers and their workers to produce high quality products at high speed. But at all times, Apple, given its ownership of the commanding heights of both hardware and software and its ability to influence consumer choices, has remained in the driver’s seat setting the terms and conditions for suppliers. Joshua Cohen, a faculty member of Apple University and University of California, Berkeley, explained that in 2015, Apple had as many as 2000 large and small suppliers in China alone, including first-tier and sub-tier suppliers. If, by this measure, China has risen to become an important site in electronics production “in the age of globalization,” Sean Starrs highlights the fact that it is “more important to investigate who ultimately profits from the production and sale of goods and services” than to note “where their production or sale is geographically located.”


Subject (Categories)

Labor Practices in Apple’s Supply Chains in China