This is a case study in which we read about the company Apple and the people behind who build our precious gadgets such as the iPhone, the MacBook, the iPads and various other electronics that have become a large part of our daily lives. This case study uncovers what an average consumer such as me and you would not know about. And that is the practise of hiring underage workers who help build these fantastic electronics. This case study talks about Connie Guglielmo who reports that Apple Inc.
revealed that three of its suppliers had hired 11 underage workers in their factories who were helping building their products. Apple Inc. made this discovery as a part of their onsite audit of its 102 factories. After this discovery Apple did take the correct measures and released the underage workers who were hired in the discovered factories. It is also written that Apple took disciplinary actions against the foreign suppliers and in one case completely stopped their contract with one supplier (Brusseau, 2012, p.
The question at hand is whether it is ethical for Apple to hire (through suppliers) underage workers? It is highly unethical for Apple (through suppliers) to hire underage workers who create the likes of iPhone and iPods. But the ethical question remains that if Apple themselves knowingly hired those underage workers. Because if that was the case then it would most definitely be unethical of them to do so. But as it is told in the case study, it was their suppliers who broke the policy of Apple’s minimum age in a workplace.
Then it has to be said that Apple acted accordingly and dealt with this issue appropriately.The practise of these suppliers would fall under the category of child labour, a practise that is heavily looked down upon in the modern era. It is unethical because it creates an issue of controversy in the society that we live in today. Children are meant to get a good education and enjoy their childhood instead of worrying about to go to work. The stock prices are irrelevant in terms of ethics and morality. People and companies can probably make a lot of money than they do now by simply ignoring ethics and justifying their actions by pointing their fingers to their ever so increasing stocks. The stock prices does not affect one’s ethics. A company could have their stock prices rising rapidly but it still wouldn’t negate the fact that their practises if found to be true are unethical.
It was found that most of these underage workers were from countries like China, Taiwan, and Philippines etc. As the world knows the living conditions of the people there are not the best and the quality of life is subpar when it is compared to the likes of the United States or Canada. Apple had to adhere to its company policies and the law of the respective countries which prohibits any employer to hire an employee who is under the minimum age required to legally work. As the case study informs us that many of the underage workers were 15-years old in places where the legal minimum age to work is 16-years old. Apple released these employers who might have been very close to be turning 16. Most of these families depend on multiple sources of income just to sustain their quality of life. This is a big reason why parents make the decision to allow their kids to work because the more hands they have earning money, the better the chances of survival they have in their country. It can be said that it might be unethical for Apple to release underage workers whilst fully knowing their living conditions in their respective countries. Not every country has such strong child protection laws as there are in United States.
The argument that best supports Apple enforcing the age workplace rules is straightforward. Apple just like any business would not want any legal trouble involving the employment of their workers. If Apple does not enforce an age workplace rules then the law will eventually find out the employees who work at Apple. The law will then have the power to prosecute the business. The news would be widespread and this would start a chain reaction. The people who support Apple and the customers will be turned away from their products once they learn that Apple knowingly kept underage workers in their foreign factories. This would ultimately affect their stock prices as the company will suffer loss in revenue. The primary objective of most businesses is to sustain itself and bring in more profits every year. All of this is a big reason as to why Apple themselves have enforced an age limit in their workplace. They would routinely check their suppliers if they are adhering to the company’s policies. If the suppliers are found to be violating a company policy then Apple steps in and takes the right measures.
The difference between making decision in terms of a law and in terms of ethics is that breaking a law will earn you getting prosecuted by the government and choosing to do unethical activities will get you out of favour from the consumers. Having a bad public opinion is just as bad as being prosecuted because a business broke a law. Public opinion matters in terms of keeping a good image of the company and in turn keeping your profits high. A bad public image will harm the stock prices of Apple or any other company as less and less people would be inclined to support a business which chooses to do unethical business.
In closing, Apple is guilty of breaking the law if they knowingly allowed underage workers to work in their factories but if Apple has suppliers who choose not to follow the guidelines set out by the company then the best course of action for Apple is to release the underage employees and possibly cut contacts with said suppliers. Apple did itself justice here as they inspected their factories and caught the suppliers being very unethical. The world should be encouraging the children to go to school, pursue an education and make a better life for themselves. It is very unfortunate that there are millions and millions of underage children who do not get the privilege of getting a good education but if there is anything that we can do to help is that we must stick to our ethics and morals so that these kids are not sucked into working in factories instead of enjoying their childhood and making a better future of themselves.
Brusseau, J. (2012). Business Ethics. New York, NY: 2012 Book Archive Project.
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